The Town Council comprises 16 Councillors who were elected for a 5 year term in May 2019. The next election will be for a 5-year term from May 2024 (followed by a 4-year term). Councillors who are elected at a subsequent by-election, or are co-opted to fill a casual vacancy during the course of the 5-year term, will hold office until the end of the term. The Chairman/Mayor and Vice Chairman/ Deputy Mayor, are elected from the 16 Councillors at the Annual Council Meeting in May each year. The Mayor and Chairman roles will be filled by one Councillor. The Chairman’s responsibility is to ensure that effective and lawful decisions are taken at meetings of the council. They also ensure that Councillors are fully informed in order to make decisions. They are often the public face of the Council. The Mayor attends many functions arranged by local organisations throughout their year of office. It is a demanding role, but one that is very worthwhile as there is so much contact with the public. In the absence of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor will preside at meetings and attend functions. However they do not wear the robes or chains of office as they are only deputising for the Mayor.
THE TOWN COUNCIL – AN OVERVIEW
Blandford Forum Town Council is the parish authority for the town of Blandford Forum and has an estimated population of 10,400 with 4,800 households (2021 Census) and is 409 hectares in area.
It is the third tier of government after Parliament and Dorset Council (formed in April 2019) and its legal powers are granted to it and regulated by various government acts. Blandford Forum Town Council is the first council in Dorset to be awarded with Quality Gold Council Status.
The Town Council supplements the provision of local government services in Blandford Forum and provides a range of social and recreational facilities, while promoting and representing the town with other national and statutory bodies. For example, the Town Council acts as a consultee and lobbying force with the Dorset Council and regional and national government putting forward the wishes and needs of the local community. The Dorset Council, which covers the whole of the county except Bournemouth and Poole and whose main responsibilities include education, social services, highways, strategic planning, libraries, development control, environmental health, refuse collection, economic development, tourism and major recreational facilities such as the Blandford Leisure Centre consults with the Town Council on such subjects as the County Structure Plan, the Local Transport Plan, the Mineral and Waste Local Plan, the Local Plan, planning applications within Blandford Forum and the economic development strategy.
The Dorset (Electoral Changes) Order 2016 created the following five wards in Blandford Forum: Blandford Badbury Heights (One Councillor), Blandford Central (Six Councillors), Blandford Hilltop (Two Councillors), Blandford Langton St Leonards (Four Councillors) and Blandford Old Town Ward (Three Councillors). A map of the wards showing the area which each ward covers can be viewed on the Local Government Boundary Commission for England website. A new Order to come into effect from May 2024 has been received (May 2023) and shared with Councillors. This page will be updated accordingly in May 2024.
The Civic Year runs from May to April with the Chairman/Mayor and Vice Chairman/Deputy Mayor being elected at the Annual Council Meeting in May each year. These roles and those of the Chairmen of Committees are filled by Councillors who have been nominated and voted for by their Councillor colleagues. Town Councillors are voluntary although they can choose to receive the allowance that is now available to them to cover Council-related costs such as stationery, telephone bills, travel, etc.
MEETINGS & COMMITTEES
The Council operates on a Committee system according to the remits of the Committees (see Section 2) and where necessary the Committees make recommendations to full Council. The Recreation & Amenities Committee (R&A) and the Town & General Purposes Committee (T&GP) occur four or five times a year, whereas the Town Council and the Town Council Planning Committee are on a 4-weekly cycle. In addition, there is a Finance & Staffing Committee which meets on a quarterly basis. Councillors can express a preference for a particular Committee but are voted onto Committees at the Annual Council Meeting along with the election of the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of Committees.
Subject matters are brought before Committees and Council by means of the agenda, which is issued a minimum of three clear working days before a meeting and is posted on the various public notice boards around the town and on the website. The agendas are set a week before each meeting by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Council or Committees in liaison with the Town Clerk. At full Council meetings the Committees’ minutes are received and any Committee resolutions involving major changes to Council policies are voted upon.
The press and public are welcome to attend all Council meetings and the public may put questions or make statements on any matter in the public period at the commencement of each meeting. The minimum commitment expected of Councillors is that they will attend full Town Council and Planning meetings together with either R&A or T&GP Committees. There are no meetings held during August and Councillors with holiday commitments at other times are asked to notify the Town Clerk.
Meetings usually take place on a Monday evening at 7:00 pm in the Corn Exchange, Market Place where there is access for the disabled. Town Councillors receive their agendas and papers electronically unless a paper copy is requested.
HOW DO COUNCIL AND COMMITTEE MEETINGS OPERATE?
The following items appear on all agendas and in addition each Town Council/Committee agenda will detail the specific business relevant to that Committee.
Public Session (15 minutes)
To receive any Declarations of Interest and Requests for Dispensations
Approval of minutes from the last meeting
Town Clerk’s Report & Correspondence
The Town Council agenda also covers recommendations from the Committees, reports from the Dorset Council Councillor, and representatives to Community and Local Organisations plus any other Council business not covered by the Committees. The Remits of the Committees can be found in Section 2. Although agendas are set by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Council or the Committees in liaison with the Town Clerk, any Councillor can request any item to be put on the agenda providing it is relevant to the Council. This can be done informally either through the Town Clerk or Chairman or formally by means of a motion. Each agenda item is discussed and voted upon by the Councillors.
The Minutes, which are not a verbatim account of the meeting, detail the decisions reached and are a record of the voting. The Minutes are usually available four working days following the meeting and are forwarded to Councillors and local media organisations by email and are also available to members of the public via the Town Council’s website, from the Town Clerk’s office or the library. Once a decision has been passed by Council and a course of action identified, the work is organised and carried out by the Council’s staff under the control of the Town Clerk.
REPRESENTATION TO COMMUNITY AND LOCAL ORGANISATIONS
Blandford Forum Town Council appoints Councillors to act as representatives to organisations and groups within the town. Councillors’ involvement as representatives in the local community develops the Council’s greater understanding of the role of these organisations and groups. Representatives are nominated either at the request of a particular organisation/group or, if core funding has been granted, at the request of the Town Council.
The term of office for representatives is normally for a period of one year commencing from the Annual Council Meeting in May. Town Council representatives are expected to regularly attend meetings of the organisation they represent and take an active part in its operations. Annual reports are submitted by each representative to the Annual Council Meeting in May.
Membership of Working Groups is also voted on at the Annual Council Meeting or at the Council/Committee Meetings as appropriate. In addition, a number of Working Groups meet as and when required to discuss particular issues and report back to full Council or Committees as appropriate.
Councillors are expected to attend various civic occasions throughout the civic year ranging from the Mayor Making Ceremony (usually held on a Friday morning in May) to the Remembrance Day parade and civic church services. Councillors wear civic robes supplied by the Council at such civic events.
Notice Board Locations
Town Clerk’s Office, Church Lane Old Town Ward
The Corn Exchange Old Town Ward
Heddington Drive amenity area Blandford Central Ward
Holland Way (opposite Stanton Close) Blandford Central Ward
Salisbury Road (next to the bus stop) Hilltop Ward
Hunt Road Hilltop Ward
Langton Road Langton St Leonards Ward
Balmer Road play area Badbury Heights
There are also two community notice boards on the Tabernacle toilet building.
TOWN COUNCIL STAFF
The Town Council’s executive officer is the Town Clerk who leads a team of 9 full-time and 6 part-time staff plus the honorary roles of Mace Bearer, Deputy Mace Bearer, and Town Criers.
The Operations Manager leads the team of groundsmen and caretakers, and the office staff provide the financial, administrative, Committee and full Council support services plus the public reception, venues booking service and the administrative support for the mayoral role and civic events.
The Town Council’s Officers are made up of a team of 16 staff.