Parish Online supports the NALC Forward Plan

Parish Online supports the NALC Forward Plan

A report from SSALC Chairs Networking Day, Copthorne, 28 September 2017

The Sussex and Surrey Association of Local Councils (SSALC) held its annual Networking Day for about 80 Parish Chairmen at Copthorne in West Sussex on 28th September. The highlight of the conference was an excellent address by the Chairman of NALC, Councillor Sue Baxter, on the NALC Forward Plan.

Sue explained that the mission of Parish and Town Councils is to improve the quality of life and well-being of their communities by enhancing the cultural, economic and social prosperity of their areas.

Under the principle of Localism the opportunity for local communities to take responsibility for their own destinies is growing as powers are delegated from the Principal Authorities to Parish and Town Councils.

However, to seize this opportunity Parish and Town Councils must improve their management processes so that they can interact with their Principal Authorities on equal terms. The NALC Forward Plan is designed to support parishes in ‘raising their game' in several ways:

a)      Ensure parishes can grasp the opportunities of localism by becoming more efficient and effective and by driving up standards

b)      Improve competence of Parish and Town Councils to engage on equal terms with Principal Authorities

c)      Attract young people to join their Parish/Town Councils

d)      Provide better evidence to support actions and decisions

e)      Share good practice and learn from others

f)       Improve parish/town engagement with their communities


 It is pleasing to see that there is a very strong correlation between the aims of the NALC Forward Plan and the benefits of Parish Online:

a)      Access to Definitive Geographic Information: Parish Online provides access to the same 150 up-to-date and definitive geographic datasets which are used by the Principal Authority. This is essential to allow the parish/town to deal with the Principal Authority on equal terms.

b)      Exchange and Share Data: Parish Online allows the Principal Authority to exchange and share data with the Parish/Town Council and thus to collaborate on the development of common district-wide datasets (e.g. publicly-owned land and buildings, drainage and ditches, emergency plans etc).

c)      Neighbourhood Plans: Parish Online gives Parish/Town Councils control of the development and maintenance of their Neighbourhood Plans. Any Parish/Town Council which outsources its mapping to an external company has no way of analysing and amending its plans against current geographical information.

d)      Evidence-based Decisions: Parish Online allows Parish/Town Councils to base their decisions on proper evidence (eg speed limits/road sign recommendations based on up-to-date police traffic-accident data instead of hearsay)

e)      Community Engagement: Parish Online allows information to be made available directly to the community in the form of interactive maps via the parish/town website. This vital communication tool raises the profile and reputation of the Parish/Town Council. In addition, the Parish/Town Council can extract address data from any given area so that residents can be emailed about parish activities (closed roads, parish festivals, floods etc).

f)       Sharing Good Practice: Used properly across a group of Councils, Parish Online allows Parish/Town Councils to share good practice and learn from others. It also encourages the three levels of councils (Parish, District, County) to work in harmony with maximum efficiency.

g)      Attracting Young People: A Parish/Town Council which uses Parish Online to take active control of its business is much more likely to appeal to young people than a Council which does not. Parish Online gives young residents the opportunity to engage in Parish activities in an exciting way – for instance in the creation of an illustrated parish hedgerow or wildlife map. In addition, a Parish/Town Council which uses Parish Online to support its meetings (eg by using the Bookmark tool to show Local Plan development areas overlaid on historical aerial photography to illustrate the dangers of coalescence of settlements) is much more likely to attract the interest of younger residents.



In summary, Parish Online (or an equivalent digital mapping system) should be considered as an ESSENTIAL tool for any Parish or Town Council which wants to embrace the challenge of Localism and deal with its Principal Authority on equal terms.


 Image by Ron Porter from Pixab


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