Happy New Year to our members from DALC’s Chair 10/01/2024

Happy New Year to all our members as DALC’s Chair, Liz Brookes-Hocking, writes an open letter reflecting on the challenges the sector is facing and the opportunities that might be available.

Happy New Year!

No sooner are the twinkling Christmas lights down and the empties put out for recycling, than councils are doubly bumped back into reality with budgeting and setting the precept. Figures are pored over to make sure that everything that is needed is covered, with some contingency for the unexpected and maybe some for new projects and ventures to benefit the community. 

Whether you’re a small council with a small precept or a large one with property, assets and a turnover to match, setting the budget and precept is a key responsibility. These days, every penny spent must be value for money. The same is true for the county and districts. Many of them have reduced or cut discretionary services and are understandably focused on their statutory responsibilities, to be delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible and that may mean more cuts on the way. It’s tough. It impacts negatively on communities.

In this context, I would like to emphasise the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among the tiers of local government. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we work hand in hand to navigate the financial constraints and collectively strive for the best possible outcomes for our communities. The synergy between County, District, and Parish Councils is the cornerstone of effective governance, ensuring that our limited resources are used judiciously to meet the diverse needs of our residents. 

DALC remains steadfast in its commitment to fostering stronger relationships between parish councils and county and districts. Our goals include ensuring effective communication channels, encouraging collaborative decision-making and partnership, while enhancing the capacity of parish and town councils.

At the AGM, I explained a reason for the rise in membership fees for DALC – the need to create capacity for strategic partnership work with the other authorities because: 

  • Town and parish councils have a key role to play in local government and need to be an equal part of the trio; 
  • By working together, councils and authorities can deliver differently, share best practice, and achieve economies of scale;
  • As a Devolution Deal for Devon approaches, we need structures where we can represent the interests of our communities and achieve the best outcomes;
  • Our communities will suffer if the three sectors don’t work together – resilience will fall, and frustration will rise.

The staff team at DALC is ready to give advice and information to members when needed; the programme of Connect Events started last year with sessions on housing, devolution and nature recovery. In terms of establishing links, DALC is already working with some districts to bridge the gap with towns and parishes and with the county on communications with our sector. It’s probably not going to be quick or easy but the opportunity to push forward is there. I’m looking forward to supporting the DALC staff as they work on these priorities. 

The staff and the Board welcome your input to the work of the Association at any time and will be pleased to receive ideas and comments. Meanwhile, thank you for your continued commitment to DALC, and I wish all our member councils a successful year and good times for all our communities in 2024. 

Liz Brookes-Hocking

You can learn more about DALC’s governance structure and if you do want to get in touch with us with any ideas, then please contact us here.