Support for Councils and Clerks

Achieving A Quality Award

Trudy Ryall-Harvey, parish clerk at Ashton Hayes and Horton-cum-Peel Parish Council, Cheshire

Ashton Hayes and Horton-cum-Peel Parish Council represents a relatively small semi-rural parish of approximately 420 dwellings and 1300 residents, with a precept of £18,770.

As a PC we were aware that award schemes are generally used to support the credibility of an organisation, help people feel their work is valued, improve morale, boost the profile, and solidify an organisation’s reputation through third-party endorsement.

Our aim for seeking the award was to build on our Foundation Level award which we gained in December 2023, accrediting us with Foundation Parish Status. The Foundation Level for us, was to ensure we had all the necessary policies etc. in place to reassure ourselves and the community that we were doing the things we should and in a professional manner. It required us to plug some gaps we were previously not aware off and to strengthen some other areas. However, we found much of what was needed was in place in one form or another and being actively used. Achieving the Foundation Level is an enabler and is an important first step but does not in itself ensure quality nor measure the results of these standards and practices in practice.

The Quality Award however requires collecting, measuring and assessing the outcomes of the work of the PC against what is required by the standard, focusing attention on performance against elector expectations. As such it is an excellent benchmarking exercise to ensure what we are doing does consequently deliver benefit. For the award application we pulled this information together in the form specified by the standard and submitted it for independent assessment. We achieved the Quality Award in April 2024.

We see achievement of the award as demonstrating our commitment to standards. It also enables us to communicate this to our parishioners as recognition of our commitment to achieve ongoing improvement and delivery. We also believe this will add gravitas to aid negotiations and help from bodies such as Cheshire West and Chester Council.

In addition, achievement of the award has boosted the confidence of our parish councillors in their role, and we believe this will also help attract future members.

Tips for councils considering applying

Nothing is for free and achieving the award has required some investment of time and a small amount of money, and of course the commitment of all concerned. From our experience we offer the following tips:-

  • Learn from others: Research councils that have attained the level you are applying for to see how they achieved it. What best practices have they adopted? Be open to copy another council’s documents and standards wherever reasonable, rather than feeling that you have to do everything from scratch and as may be necessary adapt for your own use. The important thing is to get to the level of the how are good leadership and governance demonstrated? What impact has this had on their community?
  • Coordinate the work: Nominate one person to oversee the application and compile the required evidence. This will still require input and support from others, and the whole PC team should be involved in achieving the best outcome. This also helps ensure everyone is working to the same agenda.
  • Allow plenty of time: Collating evidence will take longer than expected, thus it is important and easier to break down the work into chunks. More than one council meeting may be needed to adopt policies, review evidence, and confirm that all is in place.
  • Study NALC’s LCAS application guide: This is essential to ensure your council meets all the relevant criteria. We attended our local Cheshire (CHALC) training event to help guide and assist us in preparing our award application. CHALC supplied helpful tips, information and support about preparing the application. Check what is available in your area.

Find out more about the Local Council Award Scheme