MINUTES OF THE CHOPPINGTON PARISH COUNCIL SPECIAL MEETING HELD ON WEDNESDAY 18 MARCH 2020 IN STAKEFORD AND BOMARSUND SPORTS AND SOCIAL WELFARE CENTRE
Cllr E A Barrell
Cllr J Foster
Cllr K Grimes
Cllr G Huntley
Cllr A Iley
Cllr J Rowell
Cllr Vaughan (Chair)
Cllr L Watson
Mr D L Nicholson JP, Parish Clerk and Ms A Brindley, Deputy Parish Clerk/RFO and County Councillor D. Ledger
AGENDA PART 1
C061/19. 1. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence was received from Cllr H Allsopp (holiday). The meeting accepted this as a proper reason for absence.
C062/19.2. DECLARATIONS OF DISCLOSABLE PECUNIARY AND OTHER REGISTERABLE INTEREST(s)
Cllr Iley declared he may have an interest to declare in respect of staffing issues. The Parish Clerk gave assurance to the meeting that any discussion regarding staffing would be general in nature and whilst it is a matter for the individual to decide, discussion should not pass the threshold requiring any individual to declare an interest.
C063/19. 3. PUBLIC QUESTIONS.
There were no questions from the public
C064/19. 4. Investment Strategy 2019/20
The Responsible Finance officer asked members to consider the Parish Council’s Investment Strategy for 2019/20.
RESOLVED: Members adopted the Investment Strategy 2019/20 (attached to these minutes).
C065/19 5. TO CONSIDER FINANCIAL ACTIONS REQUIRED IN THE EVENT OF AN ESCALATION OF MEASURES REQUIRED TO COMBAT CORONAVIRUS (COVID 19)
5.1 The Parish Clerk reported that the risk of Coronavirus (COVID 19) is very serious and he will be introducing several measures to protect users and staff. Older, frail people are thought to be at particular risk from the infection, similarly the Parish Council is dependent on our staff team to remain well to provide support to our many activities and to maintain the safest possible environment for our users and staff.
5.2 Procedures will be reviewed on a day-to-day basis following advice and guidance received; promoting a common-sense approach and good hygiene standards.
5.3 If Coronavirus continues to spread, there is a strong likelihood that individual movement will be restricted and public buildings closed. This will put a strain on many voluntary and community groups and might threaten their financial viability. It is anticipated that the Government advice to self-isolate and social distancing will lead to the closure of community facilities. For example, Wansbeck Valley Food bank, an organisation supported by the Parish Council, is known to be experiencing difficulties manning its local counter services and is moving to a delivery only service. The food bank would be one of a number of organisations that would benefit from a financial arrangement with the Parish Council.
5.4 Members considered using staff from partner organisations who provide Council services to the public
5.5 Parish Councillors considered that this was an unprecedented time with the NHS and voluntary groups under immense pressure to service the needs of our community and that the Parish Council staff and resources should be made available to assist in the crisis using S137 free resource if required.
- To allocate initially £50,000 from earmarked funds to assist the viability of local groups and infra-structure considered important for the viability of local community services.
- To utilise the power of S137 for coronavirus related expenditure where there is no other power available. The maximum expenditure allowed is £8.32/elector.
- To utilise existing criteria by which any award of funding is made is applied when making funds to voluntary, community groups and organisations.
- To give delegated powers to the Parish Clerk in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair during the period of emergency.
- Production of a newsletter to all residents encouraging good neighbours to look after those vulnerable residents who are without outside help from friends and relatives.
- To work with community partners to provide additional manpower and resources for as long as we can.
C066/19. 6. REPORT BY THE RESPONSIBLE FINANCE OFFICER.
The Government has given advice that to limit the spread of COVID 19, all people should observe social distancing. It would make sense for standing orders to be suspended regarding the necessity for quarterly meetings of the Parish Council and associated committees. The RFO reported that under current legislation the Parish Council is still obliged to meet to fulfil certain statutory functions e.g. the approval of the annual accounts and unless this is relaxed, members will be required to attend a meeting to fulfill this statutory requirement. In the meanwhile, officers will keep in touch with Members by telephone and Members should contact the office with any queries and concerns.
The suspension of standing orders requiring quarterly meetings of the Parish Council and its committees, until the Government relaxes its advice for social distancing.
There being no further business the meeting closed at 11.05