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Parish and Town Council Deposits

Town & Parish Council Archives

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service (BLARS) accepts deposits of archives from parish and town councils. The service is aware that town and parish council clerks can be unsure about what sort of material to send to BLARS, what to destroy and when to destroy it. It is hoped that the following points will be a useful guide.

 Guide to Retention and Disposal

  • Councils will clearly need to keep some information longer than others: a plan of street lighting should be kept for as long as it is current then destroyed and replaced by the new, up to date, plan; issues of importance such as mineral extraction, bypasses etc. should be kept until it is judged that their interest has become historic rather than day to day; financial material must be kept for a statutory period.
  • Parish and town councils receive a lot of literature from various local, regional and national bodies. This material should be kept for as long as it is relevant for research then destroyed.
  • Financial records: these should be kept to allow auditing; as a rule of thumb keep all financial records for the current year plus six years based on a financial year beginning on 1st April; so, an invoice for provision of a new shredder received on 21 July 2006 should be kept until 31 March 2007 then a further six years - meaning it can be destroyed on 1 April 2013.
  • General correspondence files are, perhaps, the hardest things to judge. Overall it is important to remember that if a matter needs a decision and that decision is mentioned in minutes it is unlikely that correspondence about it need be retained for very long. It is probably sensible to keep any correspondence file, once it has been closed, for up to two years in case councillors or officers need to refer to anything within it.
  • Single issue files are similar to correspondence files but those important locally, which will have accompanying reports etc. such as waste disposal sites or school closures  might need to be kept for reference for a longer period, say up to five years depending on the significance of the material.
  • Planning applications can be a good source of local history, but their great numbers are a problem. It is best to keep the material for two or three years for domestic or small scale works, five years for larger ones such as new estates.
  • Contracts for most town or council matters, such as grass cutting, would normally be considered minor contracts and these should be kept for six years following termination of the contract
  • When disposing of records care should be taken to prevent such things as identity theft and breach of confidentiality by shredding.

What BLARS Will and Will Not Accept as Archives

  • BLARS will always accept signed minutes.
  • BLARS will only accept material which is likely to be of interest to historians - maters such as grass cutting and street lighting are very peripheral to the history of a town or parish but things such as local newsletters are very helpful for providing a flavour of the place and time in which they originated.
  • BLARS will not accept information material from regional or national bodies or from local bodies such as District Councils or the County Council; it will accept purely local things such as leaflets sent round by the local scouts or guides advertising activities.
  • Most financial records are extremely dull and BLARS will not accept them, the only exceptions are annual accounts.
  • Single issue files and general correspondence files will be accepted where they cover or include a subject likely to be of interest in future, (see the second bullet point above)
  • Planning applications:BLARS will be interested in taking plans, but not the surrounding documentation, if the planned works were actually carried out, provided they fulfil one of the following criteria: they involve a listed building; they involve a local business such as a pub or garage; they are a major development locally. The size of a major development will depend on the size of the place involved - a major development might be twenty houses in Flitwick but only two or three houses in Astwick.
  • BLARS will not generally accept expired contracts.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us on 01234 228833