East Midlands Councillor Development Charter

Member Development Charter Self Assessment Template What is the Councillor Development Charter and Charter Plus?

The Councillor Development Charter and Charter Plus exist to: 

  • Encourage councils to develop (or build on) an effective strategy or approach to councillor development.
  • Recognise those councils that have developed an effective approach.
  • Encourage councils to continue that development and share their experiences and learning.
  • Support the continuous professional development for councillors

As a first step councils are asked to commit to the Charter - to make a commitment to develop the necessary strategy, processes and environment to support effective councillor learning and development.  Once achieved the Charter is held for three years during which time the Council can use the charter symbol.  At the end of this period there is a reassessment to ensure the council is still at least meeting the Charter requirements.  At this point, if the council decides it has made sufficient progress, it could opt to be assessed for the Charter Plus award.

There are 3 essential criteria to achieving the Charter:

  1. There is a clear commitment to councillor development and support
  2. The Council has a strategic approach to councillor development.
  3. Learning and development is effective in building councillors' skills and knowledge

Within each of these criteria there are elements and requirements to demonstrate that the criteria are being met.  These do not dictate what should be in the strategy, the nature of the content or the delivery mechanisms that should be used. The emphasis is on ensuring that all councillors are appropriately developed and supported so that they can be effective in their roles.  Many councils are already doing great work - the Charter is a chance for this to be recognised.

Charter 2020

The Councillor Development Charter and Charter Plus has recently been updated and the relevant framework and supporting information can be found below.  This includes the guidelines, requirements and examples of evidence along with the purpose, values and benefits in terms of process and strategies, the impact on Councillors and all partners as well as the resource commitments.

The Councillor Development Charter and Charter Plus 2020

Key documents

Charter Statement of Commitment
Charter Plus Statement of Commitment

 Member Development Charter Self Assessment Template

Some helpful questions to ask

Those responsible for drawing up the Charter action plan can use the criteria and relating elements in the guidelines to ask themselves: 

  • What evidence do we have that suggests we are following good practice and meeting the criteria?
  • What action do we need to take, if any, to follow good practice or continuously improve?
  • When will this action be done by?
  • Who will be responsible for this action?

Wherever possible it is more beneficial to have the above discussion as a group (ideally by the cross party member development group with officers supporting) to ensure a range of responses and evidence is included.

Why do we need it? 

Cllr James Jamieson, Chair of the LGA comments "more than ever before, councillors' role as political, civic and community leaders requires us to offer visible, responsive and resilient leadership as we advocate on behalf of our residents and help shape places in which people want to live, work and play....if we are to continue to meet the expecations of those we serve, in an ever-changing world, we need to make sure we have the skills and expertise to carry out our duties".

The importance of councillor development

It is unlikely that any individual will become a councillor (or cabinet member) already having all the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to be effective in that role.  They will need some training and development not only to acquire those abilities but to keep them current and relevant to the changing environment and context.

Learning and development is an important tool for councils, councillors and officers to deliver what our communities need. Inspiring local communities and ensuring the wellbeing of the people and places councillors represent takes ambitious leadership - and effective political leadership is at the heart of healthy democracy, with councillors who are well equipped and supported, resilient in times of challenge or business disruption and confident to make a difference.  

The Charter and Charter Plus helps councils to support councillor development and recognises those that have built an effective approach and is based on the principles of sector-led improvement whereby councils are responsible for their own performance, are locally accountable and have a sense of collective responsibility for the performance of the sector as a whole.

Benefits of the Charter

Benefits - Processes and Strategies

  • Concise and clear guidance on how to achieve the charter without being too onerous or overly bureaucratic
  • Flexible and focuses positively and supportively on what councils already have in place -  a local approach to a national framework
  • Helps councils decide what to prioritise and improve
  • Councillor development needs are better understood and supported
  • Demonstrates the value placed on councillors carrying out their important and complex roles
  • Helps set time aside to reflect and celebrate good practice already happening

Benefits - Impact on Councillors

  •  The quality of councillor development is improved
  • New councillors are better prepared for their roles and responsibilities
  • Councillor progression is better enabled
  • Helps ensure councillors can operate at their most knowledgeable, skilled and effective
  • Increases councillors' competence and confidence
  • Helps councillors navigate the ever more complex and demanding role and local government landscape
  • Self-care and reflection for councillors through development and growth

Benefits - Impact on all partners

  • Strengthens member-officer relationships
  • Helps ensure effective top team political and managerial leadership
  • Encourages robust and accountable decision making
  • Helps ensure proactive succession planning
  • Helps improve councillor diversity
  • Enhances democracy and participation
  • Strengthens relationships with residents and partners
  • Improves outcomes for communities
  • Fosters a culture of learning and support within the council and with partners

What Charter support is available?

Most authorities have some form of support programme in place . However, the approach and levels of commitment and effectiveness vary.  Below is a list of support available from East Midlands Councils:

1. East Midlands Councillor Development Charter Assessor Training

Who is it for?  Councillors and officers whose authorities have signed up to the EM Councillor Development Charter

What does it cost?  £175.00 +VAT for an in house online 2 hour workshop 

Aims:

  • to understand the requirements of the charter in greater detail covering both the standards and the various roles
  • to understand the process and principles of assessment through discussion and practical group case study
  • to describe the charter process from sign up to achievement and benefit from examples of templates already produced 

2. Charter action plan support and guidance

3. Communications and presentations within the authority to relevant stakeholders 

4. Via the Councillor Development Network - visit here for more information 

Charter Authorities in the East Midlands

Below are the authorities that have currently or previously achieved Councillor Development Charter Status:  

  • Charnwood Borough Council - Achieved 9 March 2011; re-accredited in November 2014
  • Blaby District Council - Achieved 23 Nov 2010; Achieved re-accreditation of Charter 25 November 2013 & November 2016
  • Boston Borough Council - Achieved 12 Dec 2012, re-accredited in March 2016
  • Kettering Borough Council - Achieved June 2007, Achieved re-accreditation of Charter 23 March 2011 & November 2014
  • Lincolnshire County Council - Achieved 25 November 2008; Achieved re-accreditation of Charter 15 December 2011 & December 2014
  • Mansfield District Council - Achieved 16 November 2010; Achieved re-accreditation of Charter 28 November 2013 & November 2016
  • North Kesteven District Council - Achieved June 2006; Achieved re-accreditation of Charter in September 2009; Achieved second re-accreditation 30 September 2013; re-accrediation pending
  • South Holland District Council - Achieved 15 March 2010; Achieved re-accreditation of Charter 27 March 2013; re-accreditation pending

Charter Plus

Charter Plus was introduced during 2009 as an optional, further level that builds on the main charter requirements. It is intended for councils that have already been awarded the charter and want to continue to grow and develop.  This provides an additional challenge within a nationally recognised framework  to further improve the member development and support arrangements. 

It reflects the growing interest in the wider member development debate. It challenges councils to make further achievements in terms of councillor support, promoting local democracy as well as in their approach to member training.

Additional Benefits of Charter Plus Accreditation

  • Highest level of commitment and a holistic approach means the benefits filter more widely
  • Case studies highlight successes and encourage more councillors to participate
  • Evaluation ensures high quality learning and development is delivered to councillors
  • Learning and development for councillors supports the council's objectives
  • Councillors have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities
  • Successful and impactful personal development plans (PDP's) for councillors
  • Deeper intelligence of the impact of learning and development
  • Helps prioritise, horizon-scan and deliver the "next level" of member development
  • Strengthened place-based focus by sharing development opportunities and promoting the role of the councillor to other organisations in the local area
  • Effective succession planning and candidate recruitment activities
  • Evaluation draws out the impacts on the community through feedback from local partners

How much does it cost?

The investment per authority is only paid once the authorirty has achieved the Charter standard.  The cost, which includes all assessment activities as well as ongoing support and advice, is £1750.00 + VAT - this covers the 3 year period.

Councils are expected to maintain good practice and demonstrate improvements since achieving the Charter, therefore reaccreditation will take place within a minimum of 3 years. 

Re-accreditation costs

Re-accreditation -  £1000.00 + VAT & travel expenses (if appropriate) for all assessors

More information

To access the above support, or for further information about the Councillor Development Charter, please contact Lisa Butterfill at lisa.butterfill@emcouncils.gov.uk