Successful but busy year for Northumberland councils association

Stephen Rickitt, chief officer of the Northumberland Association of Local Councils (NALC).
Stephen Rickitt, chief officer of the Northumberland Association of Local Councils (NALC).

It’s been a successful – but busy – year for the body which represents Northumberland’s town and parish councils.

That’s according to the annual report from the Northumberland Association of Local Councils (NALC), which was published earlier this month.

Chairman of the county committee, Coun Alex Wallace, said: ‘The pace of change from Whitehall has continued, although the three-year moratorium on potentially introducing council tax referendums is very welcome.

‘The new external audit arrangements have been a source of much work in the later part of this term, as has the uncertainty over the need for a data protection officer.’

In his summary of the last year, NALC’s chief officer, Stephen Rickitt, reported that the changes to the audit process for smaller councils enabled the Association to obtain grant funding for its parish portal.

This hosts webpages for councils who may not have the resources or skills to set up their own website and, as of March 31, more than 50 had signed up, with others following since.

At the start of 2018, the imminent introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sparked a real concern that town and parish councils would need the services of a data protection officer at a cost of around £300 a year.

Local and national lobbying meant that the Government excluded the entire sector from this element, although data protection rules for dealing with people’s personal information still apply for town and parish councils.

During 2017-2018, NALC held 13 training events, attended by 111 councillors and clerks.

NALC’s AGM takes place on Saturday, September 29, at The Sill, the Northumberland National Park’s landscape discovery centre, when the theme will be the opportunities for local councils from the Borderlands Growth Initiative.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service