Council may go for a Gold standard

Town councillors have formed a working group to decide if they should go for a prestigious national quality mark.

Morpeth Town Council was the first authority in Northumberland to achieve Quality Status in 2004 after meeting a series of tough criteria, and has retained it ever since.

But now the programme has been replaced with a Local Council Award Scheme, with three levels – Foundation, Quality and Quality Gold.

Morpeth has been granted Foundation status for a year in light of its previous standing, but with much more criteria to meet for the new scheme, councillors must decide whether to apply for it to continue.

Coun David Parker said the scheme would ensure the council strives to improve community engagement, action plans and other work.

“I think the scheme encouraged us to enforce good practice, and there were also a number of ‘carrots’ then. This new scheme really doesn’t have the carrots, but I still think it is worth doing,” he said.

“There are things we want to do and this would maybe give us a push to get on with them.

“Most of the things for the Foundation level we are doing anyway, it is just standard, but whether we want to go for a higher grade I don’t know. I think the Gold one is quite ambitious and could take an awful lot of staff and member time, but it would be good to get it.”

Members heard that the previous scheme had 20 sections to complete, whereas the new Gold level has 54.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt said: “I suggest that we form a small working group to look at what the implications are, including cost, staff time and councillor time, and try to work out the best way forward.”

The group will include the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, committee chairmen and staff.