Winchcombe Town Council

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Winchcombe Town Council Addendum to Standing Orders and Financial Regulations and Business Continuity Plan relating to restricted activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic

1. Introduction

Due to the uncertainty in respect of the spread of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Winchcombe Town council, hereafter the Council, actively seeks to protect and minimise the risk to its elected Members, members of staff and members of the public.

The Council is following the legislative measures introduced by the Government (Coronavirus Act 2020) as well as advice and guidance pertaining to best and safe practice from relevant Medical Bodies and other public bodies such as the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), Gloucestershire Association of Parish and Town Councils (GAPTC), Gloucestershire County Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council.

The following items are intended to form part of an ongoing contingency plan and to ensure the smooth running and operation (wherever possible) of the Town Council until such times that the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

2. Safety Statement

The Council recognises and agrees that no business, meeting, service provision or service delivery of the Council is of more importance than that of public and personal safety. As such all public meetings will be cancelled until further notice or as circumstances dictate.

3. Scope of the policy

The main areas of concern for the Town Council with respect to Covid-19 are:

  • Remaining an effective council
  • Safety & Health of Councillors, Contractors, Staff, Volunteers and Members of Public.

4. Authority to the Clerk ⁄ Responsible Finance Officer (RFO)

Some delegated authority is already given to the Clerk & RFO in the Standing Orders or Financial Regulations of the Council.

5. Suspension of Standing Orders and Financial Regulations

That the Council gives delegated authority to the Clerk in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Council to suspend any relevant Standing Order and ⁄ or Financial Regulation as necessary to ensure the smooth running and operation (wherever possible) of the Council for a period of no longer than 4 months (or as circumstances dictate), with the Clerk/RFO to compile and maintain a list of such suspensions and reasons which will be to be presented to Town Councillors for scrutiny.

6. Financial Management

That the Clerk ⁄ RFO along with those elected Members with delegated responsibility for the authorising and signing of payments put measures in place with robust transparency processes to ensure effective business continuation and to minimise impact on local service delivery and local business with ratification by the Town Council to be made at the earliest and safest opportunity.

To review the spending limit to the Clerk/RFO in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Council and increase any current limit as deemed appropriate for a period not exceeding 4 months from the date of resolution (or as circumstances dictate).

The Clerk ⁄ RFO to maintain full accounts as far as possible and provide monthly reports on income, expenditure and payment authorisation to the Council for their review and approval.

That the Clerk ⁄ RFO maintain the records for the Annual Audit for the Financial Year 2019-2020 and keep the Council advised of any changes to requirement and dates for submission.

[NB: The Council will continue to monitor advice from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and Gloucestershire Association of Parish and Town Councils (GAPTC) as they intend to provide updates once these regulations have been made].

7. Additional Delegated Authority

That the Council gives additional delegated authority for a period of no longer than 4 months (notwithstanding relative Government legislation or medical/relevant body advice or best/safe practice)) to the Clerk ⁄ Proper Officer/RFO in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Town Council to:

  1. Undertake the day to day duties (wherever possible and within legal constraints and with the best intentions of public safety and to promote infection control) in order to minimise disruption to service provision and ensure business continuity.
  2. Undertake any additional duties necessary (wherever possible within legal constraints and with the best intentions of public safety and to promote infection control) in order to minimise disruption to service provision and ensure business continuity.
  3. Undertake decisive actions (within legal constraints and with the best intentions of public safety and to promote infection control) in respect of cancelling any meetings of the Council, its committees or working groups.
  4. To undertake decisive actions (within legal constraints and with the best intentions of public safety and to promote infection control) in respect of Town Council activities, including public meetings.

8. Council Meetings

It is a requirement of the Local Government Act 1972, that council business shall be conducted at public meetings of the council and any committees. During these unprecedented times the Government, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) have asked local councils to stop holding any physical meetings or gatherings in accordance with the Coronavirus Act. This includes full council, committee meetings, Annual Parish and Annual Council Meetings.

The cancellation of meetings has a direct impact on the Annual Council Meeting of the Council, including change of the chairmanship, assignment of Members to Committees and their representation of outside bodies as well as the Annual Parish Meeting. This will be kept under review and the current chairmen ⁄ Vice Chair will remain in place until an annual council meeting is held (possibly next year) unless the council decide to elect a replacement earlier.

Where practicable meetings will be conducted by alternative remote means (i.e. telephone conference, video conferencing or by email) provided that Regulation 5(2) of the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 can be satisfied. The Agenda shall be limited to essential or urgent business only and time limited. A full record of proposals and resolutions are to be retained for audit purposes and keeping in the minute book.

Notification of meetings, agendas and papers will be posted in accordance with Standing Orders on the Noticeboards and website. Should the website be unavailable then the Clerk will use a combination of noticeboard and make any papers available by email request.

9. Planning Applications

Where possible the Council will deal with planning applications via email and gives delegated power to the Chairman of the Planning Committee to collate the responses and having taken the majority view, summarise and submit them to the Clerk for forwarding to Planning Authority.

10. Policy

That the Clerk be delegated to update policy documentation where legislative changes are necessary. Where revision dates have fallen due these documents remain unchanged until a future meeting when they can to be ratified by the Council.

11. Community Groups

To offer impartial, practical advice to community groups and organisations in respect of their responsibilities to take decisive actions (with the best intentions of public safety and to promote infection control) in respect of cancelling events, meetings and gatherings.

During the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to liaise, assist and collaborate with the Police, Fire and Rescue, Ambulance Service, Gloucestershire Resilience Forum (LRF) Emergency Planning Team, Gloucestershire Community Help Hub, Tewkesbury Borough Council, Local Medical Practice and Community Volunteer Groups in the provision of the community response to the pandemic.

As necessary act as a point of contact for vulnerable individuals and making referrals to the appropriate point of assistance and to ensure that contemporaneous records of actions taken are maintained.

12. General Information Updates

Where relevant appropriate and practicable keep elected Members, Community volunteer Groups and members of the public updated on advice from:

  • Central Government, the NHS and Public Health England (PHE)
  • Gloucestershire Resilience Forum (LRF) ⁄ Emergency Planning Team
  • Gloucestershire Community Help Hub
  • Tewkesbury Borough Council
  • Gloucestershire Police, Fire and Rescue and ⁄ or South West Regional Ambulance Service
  • National Association of Local Councils (NALC)
  • Gloucestershire Association of Town and Parish Councils (GAPTC)
  • The Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC)

13. Burials

Winchcombe Town Council is the Burial Authority for its Parish.

The Council will continue with its burial duties whilst taking guidance from the relevant bodies namely

  • The Association of Private Cemeteries and Crematoria
  • The Cremation Society of Great Britain
  • The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities
  • Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management
  • Tewkesbury Borough Council

particularly with matters relating to funerals during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Clerk will liaise with the local Funeral Directors regarding funeral arrangements and burials in our cemeteries.

The Clerk will keep the Council informed as to the remaining capacity of the Greet Road Cemetery site and any requirement to open the Mount View site prematurely.

14. Staff Health and Safety

The Clerk and Assistant Clerk are currently still working from the Council Office and are prepared to do so for as long as they can as there is currently no facility to work from home.

During the Covid-19 outbreak whilst working in the office the door is to remain locked to prevent access by the public. Members of the public should only approach the Council with essential issues or matters of absolute urgency and then by telephone or email in the first instance.

Face-to-face contact is not allowed except in circumstances where it cannot be avoided e.g. selection of a burial plot or as sexton at a funeral and even then social distancing of at least 2 metres must be adhered to at all times.

The most recent guidance during the COVID-19 outbreak can be found on the

  • Employees who are sick or unfit for work need to focus on their recovery.
  • If an employee is fit for work but decides, or is instructed, to self-isolate, their absence should not be recorded as sickness absence.
  • If an employee is caring for someone who has or may have coronavirus or exposed to a potentially higher risk (due to a medical condition or medication) this period of absence should also be regarded as self-isolation.
  • Wherever possible employees in self-isolation will continue to be paid.
  • Employers ⁄ Councillors should keep in touch to support employees.

15. This policy ⁄ plan is considered to be activated

  • In accordance with Government guidelines to cease holding meetings and in accordance with the Coronavirus Act 2020.
  • On the advice of official bodies such as NALC or Tewkesbury Borough Council.
  • For a period of no longer than 4 months (or as circumstances dictate).

16. Deactivation of the policy ⁄ plan

This policy ⁄ plan is considered to be deactivated, when the Government reinstates all public meetings.