Shaftesbury Town Council has been recognised for its ideas, drive and governance.
Councillors and staff were quizzed when assessors from a local council in Gloucestershire called into the Town Hall on Tuesday to review procedures and paperwork.
It’s not often that the Town Council receives a round of applause. Members of the public attending Tuesday’s Full Council meeting clapped when Town Clerk, Claire Commons, revealed that visiting inspectors from the National Association of Local Councils had given Shaftesbury Town Council top marks.
“The Quality Gold Award is the highest you can get. The assessment shows that the Council is on top of its paperwork and procedures but it also tells an outsider that the authority is doing more than just the Council’s basic obligations,” explained Claire.
“It shows that all of our policies and procedures are in place, and that our engagement with the community is of a quality standard. It shows that we have innovative ideas and projects on our books, as well as dealing with the routine business of the Council, which is litter, grass cutting, dog mess and so on.”
Two councillors, Andy Hollingshead and Jeanne Loader, met the assessors and answered some of their questions before Claire took the delegation on a whistle-stop tour of the town. “They were really impressed with the innovative ideas and the volume of projects that this council has got on its books. They were expecting to see one or two items,” said Claire, who offered the visitors an overview of the Council’s attempt to buy the former Bell Street supermarket for the community. “I talked to them about Project Belle, which is obviously parked at the moment, but nonetheless is an initiative the Council had. I also showed them the A30 allotments.”
Claire also discussed the Council’s support for the Abbey’s archaeological survey work. “We talked about working with the community on the SAVED project,” said Claire, who also shared details of the Salisbury Street Green initiative. Recently Dorset Council transferred an open space at the top of St Martin’s Lane to Town Council ownership. Bee-friendly plants will be grown there.
The inspectors appeared to be impressed that the Council has agreed its biodiversity policy. In February, councillors agreed to limit the use of glysophate weed killers and ensure working practices that encourage wildlife and conserve resources.
The assessors had previously suggested that the Council should consider its green policies. “They recommended that we did something towards the environment, so there was a good opportunity to put that one forward,” said Mrs Commons. “On top of that, we had to demonstrate how we are engaging with the community and how we are informing the public of what we are doing through our social media, website and the posters that you’ll see on the notice boards around the town.”
Mayor Tim Cook believes that this third-party judgment, made by professionals who are used to assessing councils, sends a positive message to locals. “We are confident that the way we do business is of a standard that has met certain criteria,” he said.
Claire says it is fairly unusual for a town council to get this gold award. “As far as I’m aware, we are only the second one in Dorset. Blandford Forum has got it. It is basically saying we are doing a good job, so the community can be proud of the council they’ve got looking after them in this town,” said Claire.
Tim praised the Town Hall office staff for making it happen. “I’m really glad that Claire and her team have worked behind the scenes to allow us to get this, because the administration team has done all the work. I feel proud for the team that we’ve got where we have,” the Mayor said.