Councils are deceptively complex organisations to run, providing services that are vital to the wellbeing of individuals and communities. When they are run well, no one notices the hard work undertaken to make them successful. As an employer, the council has to compete with the private sector to attract and retain staff who are capable of maintaining the required standards.
At the same time, when making decisions on pay awards, the council is under an obligation to secure ‘best value for money’ for taxpayers. The National Association of Local Councils (NACL) provides guidelines for good employment practice, alongside a recommended salary range for clerks and deputy clerks. The scales are not meant to be used for other council staff. The salary scale or single salary point for a job specification that is adopted by a council is determined by how the council has been profiled according to NACL guidelines.
Starting at profile 1, a position within a ‘small or medium parish’ takes responsibility for ‘straightforward problems’. Profile 3 is characteristic of a ‘large parish or small town’ with a large team of between 10-20 staff and a budget up to the region of £750,000. A position in a ‘large town’ within profile 4 has management of more than 20 staff and a budget in excess of £750,000.
The NACL does not keep data on council profiles so it is difficult to benchmark against other councils. In Northamptonshire, Towcester, with a precept of £318,000 and Daventry Town Council, with a precept of £351,000 are pegged at profile 3. Further afield, Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands is at profile 4, with a precept of £1.8 million gathered from a population of 95,000.
The Department for Communities and Local Government recommends that the threshold for being considered a larger parish or town should be a precept of £1 million or more. There are 23 town councils in England that would cross that threshold.
Danny Moody, Chief Executive of the Northamptonshire NACL said that Oundle Town Council is anomalous in several ways, such that benchmarking against one measure would give ‘a skewed picture’. While Oundle is the 18th largest council in Northamptonshire, it has the fifth highest precept (£336,543 for 2016-17), with more than £240,000 of its total income deriving from operating income.
In his assessment that Oundle Town Council would fit profile 4, Danny Moody said: ‘Oundle Town Council bats above its weight compared to councils of a similar electorate because it is an active council with a lot of physical assets.’
11 May 2016