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Parish/Town Council Meetings Coronavirus Should non-essential business be transacted?

+1 vote

Appreciate it’s a fast moving developing story so advise / guidance likely to change by the minute.  Based on the current position should "none essential" Parish/Town council business be transacted?  As an individual I am really concerned that elected members will feel pressured to attend meetings (particularly those in most vulnerable category or living with those in said category).  I note decisions elsewhere (most notably larger authorities have publicly cancelled planning meetings and taken decisive steps in terms of closing facilities etc (Libraries, Museums etc).  It’s hard to escape the demographics involved within many Parish Councils are often 65+ so assuming they follow government advise hard to see how “quorum” can be maintained.   I have visions of people dragging themselves in locally and putting themselves at unnecessary risk (and indeed others) as result of a sense of duty and fear what state council will be in when they return (as I have alluded to in other questions things are not great... with many seeing May AGM as critical to remaining) 

How is your Parish/Town council approaching issue?

https://www.nalc.gov.uk/coronavirus (I note contents provided by N.A.LC)

Welcome Thoughts... 

asked by (900 points)

3 Answers

+1 vote
We are holding an EGM instead of our bi monthly meeting to delegate authority to a committee and putting members on a rota.

We all have office365 and we are using that to help coordinate between councillors.
answered by (5.8k points)
+2 votes

It's unlikely anyone can give authoritative answers on this one, we are in uncharted territory. My personal view is that councils should:

  • Delegate all decision making to the clerk
  • Cease holding meetings until it is considered reasonably safe to resume
  • Request the clerk to consult with members on important questions, preferably by holding an electronic meeting. If electronic is not feasible, consider phone conference. Failing that, by email or individual telephone discussions.
  • Request the clerk to make public (through noticeboards, web sites, local press, etc) information about any significant decisions that are about to be made, in sufficient time for members of the public to make representations to the clerk, to be circulated to councillors
  • Assume that the requirement for an annual meeting has been rendered ineffective by force majeure, and that all elections to chair, deputy chair, committees etc carry over until a meeting can be called
  • Assume likewise that the requirement to hold a meeting during the year is also subject to force majeure
My view is that the NALC advice that the clerk should consult with the chair and deputy is anti-democratic, and that the every councillor (or every committee member) should continue to have an opportunity to put their views, albeit not in the form of a meeting.
answered by (28.3k points)
Certainly agree with you about NALC.  They don't worryingly seem to realise that the Chair does not have any elevated powers over and above any other Cllr apart from the right to unilaterally call extraordinary meetings and EGM's.
Exactly my thoughts and concerns, The Clerk announced the Mayor and Deputy  Mayor had decided to postpone the Annual Assembly two days ago at my Parish Council. No consultation with the rest of the Councillors.
+2 votes
The other challenge I am facing is that the venues in which we hold our meetings have been closed, so we have nowhere to meet, even if we wanted to (or legislation required us to).

Let's hope we get some clarity from Government in due course, especially around audit processes.
answered by (15.9k points)
The MHCLG has announced that the audit deadline has been extended to 30 September and it is bringing forward temporary legislation to allow virtual meetings, rather than face-to-face.

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