Advice for parish and town councils - COVID19
As per the PM's address, gatherings of more than two people from different households will be dispersed so all council meetings should be cancelled. While it is technically not legal to hold meetings remotely or to make decisions via email, it is felt that guidance from NALC, following consultation with the government will be received soon and we will forward this as soon as we receive it.
In the meantime, planning ahead, there are several apps and websites which can be used to host conference calls or virtual meetings.
One app you can use is Zoom. There are time restrictions with the free package, however, but it does allow 40 minutes which should be enough time to transact essential business and delegate powers to the Clerk for many of the other activities that might need to be processed.
The two good things about zoom is that links can be provided to residents (or put up on the website) so that there is still transparency and in these times of being at home it might provide a good audience and potential councillors in the future. Also, the meeting can easily be recorded so that there is an unambiguous record of the decisions.
If you are unable to hold meetings like this, then record decisions via email where the way Councillors have voted can be evidenced.
Annual Parish/Town Meetings
These should also be cancelled if not done so already.
We expect that due to the restrictions announced last night there will be guidance from government on a delay in the requirement to hold these meetings.
Annual Council Meetings
These meetings should also be cancelled if not done so already. We expect that due to the restrictions announced last night there will be guidance from government on a delay in the requirement to hold these meetings or to hold them remotely/virtually.
The Chairman of the Council will stay in post until they resign, or a meeting can be held (possibly remotely/virtually)
Play areas and other assets
ALL PLAY AREAS SHOULD BE CLOSED FROM TODAY.
Signs should be placed up stating that the play areas will be closed as per government instructions and that safety checks will not be carried out during this period.
It will be best to take a photograph of closing all the play areas, for two reasons, one to post up on social media to make residents aware and secondly to evidence in regard to insurance claims should people violate the closure.
If the play area is in the open (i.e. no fence around it), then tape should be wrapped round the equipment in addition to the signage.
If there is fencing (even if very small) then the gates should be locked (chains and padlock preferably, zip ties if not and tape if no alternative) in addition to the signage. If the fencing is small (i.e. able to be stepped over) then tape the equipment up.
Community Halls/Town Halls and Council Offices
These should also have been closed or if not already then closed today, with staff working from home.
There is no guidance so far from Government to say allotments should be closed. It could be argued that they are a source of exercise and food production. We advise if you have allotments to keep an eye on the Allotment Society Website to see if the guidance changes.
Cemetery workers, both admin and manual workers, are classed as key workers and will be allowed out to undertake their work. Preparations should be made to continue the work required. We would advise to keep up to date will any changes via the ICCM https://www.iccm-uk.com/iccm/
Coronavirus Case Studies
NALC have created a Coronavirus case studies publication. It includes good examples of what action parish/town councils can take.
Remember to email me about the work you are doing so we can coordinate with partners across Gloucestershire.
If something is happening in your area can you please email email@example.com with the following information:
Is the Council undertaking activity?
If not, who is?
What activity is happening?
Does this only cover the parish? or is it a wider area or smaller?
Local councils supporting their communities
Classed as essential work, local schemes should be progressed if they are distributing food and/or medicines.
These should follow government guidelines on meetings and social distancing.
We expect further announcements in the coming days from government and the County Council and Districts. We are working in partnership with these bodies.
Staff should be helped to work from home where possible. This mostly happens anyway with the majority of Clerks.
Litter pickers/bin collections in parks
From a public safety/cleanliness point of view, these staff will need to keep working while the parks are open. However, staff should abide by social distancing requirements and where possible co-ordinate their activities for quieter parts of the day.
Covid 19 issues
ACAS has put together a set of pages on advice for those employers dealing with Covid 19.
We are waiting for the government to issue further guidance however with the restrictions on meetings and the requirements for internal audit, access for electors to view the accounts and the requirement for signatures on the Annual Return, it is likely this will be delayed.
Within your financial regulations permissions should already be in place for the Clerk to undertake emergency expenditure if required.
In addition, there will be a default permission to spend against agreed budgets.
Online banking and Cheques
We advise that if you are currently undertaking online banking to continue with this.
If you are not currently using online banking, we recommend that you look into the possibility of arranging it in case restrictions go on for a long time
If you are unable to arrange online banking, then we would advise to make arrangements for cheques to be signed while adhering to government guidelines on social distancing and self-isolation
Posted: Tue, 24 Mar 2020 12:19 by Alison Robinson