Chairman: Councillor Phil Loughlin | Clerk: Ralph L Morgan (BA Hons)

COVID-19 update and policy

March 18, 2020

At Donnington and Muxton Parish Council our focus, as always, is on the health and safety of the Community, our associates and members of staff. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by COVID-19.

In light of ongoing Coronavirus developments, we have made this decision to close the Community library from this Friday 20th March 2020 at 1pm. We will also be closing the Parish Council Office from Monday 23rd March 2020. Staff have been instructed to work from home, so will be contactable should anyone need them.

While we don’t know exactly what the future will hold, we feel confident that by supporting each other we will emerge from this stronger than before.

Please see details below on Donnington and Muxton Parish Council’s Epidemics/Pandemics Policy.

1. Definition

A pandemic is the highest possible level of disease, or a measure of how many people have gotten sick from a particular disease and how far it has spread—but before a common illness reaches pandemic proportions, it has to exceed a few other levels, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

• Sporadic: When a disease occurs infrequently and irregularly.
• Endemic: A constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infection within a geographic area. (Hyperendemic is a situation in which there are persistent, high levels of disease occurrence.)
• Epidemic: A sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease—more than what’s typically expected for the population in that area.
• Pandemic: An epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, affecting a large number of people.

Sometimes, an epidemic stays contained to a specific area—but when it extends into other countries or continents, an epidemic turns into a full-blown pandemic.

When an epidemic crosses over into pandemic, the biggest difference is that more governments are involved in attempting to prevent the progression of the disease and, potentially, treat the people who have it.

2. HOW THE PARISH COUNCIL WILL RESPOND

2.1 Managing Risk

Donnington and Muxton Parish Council has a duty of care to its members, staff and the people coming into contact with its services. These include responsibilities arising from Health and Safety at Work statutes and regulations. The Council will consider the advice of the Government, Public Health England, National and Local Associations of Local Councils and Telford & Wrekin Council in deciding any action to be taken with regard to the provision of services and facilities in the event of an epidemic/pandemic.

Factors to consider include: likely impact on staff’s health and well-being incurred by providing services and the possible impact on the health and well-being of the local community in receiving a service, particularly to vulnerable groups such as the very frail and elderly.

In the event of a local pandemic/epidemic the Clerk will monitor daily any staff absences and local conditions, such as the level of infection locally. Any significant staff shortages, which affect the Council’s ability to perform its functions, will be reported to the Chairman of the Council (Vice-Chairman if Chairman is incapacitated).
Using information available from the sources listed in the first paragraph, the Chairman and Clerk will jointly agree any action to be taken, including the temporary cessation of particular services, or the closure of Donnington and Muxton Community Library, Turreff Hall as a community facility, or the closure of the office because of staff absence. Alternative arrangements have been made to ensure that the staff can work from home to limit any disruption to the daily running and management of the Council where possible.

Where the Chairman or Clerk are incapacitated, the responsibility will be delegated to the Vice-Chairman or Assistant Clerk respectively.

Where possible, members will be advised by email or phone of any decisions to curtail the provision of services, which will be officially reported to the Council or its relevant committees as soon as possible thereafter.

2.2 Council/Committee Meetings

2.2.1 Parish councils are not able to conduct meetings by tele-conference. Councillors make decisions by attending a properly called meeting which is open to the public. However, special dispensation may be given by Government to allow this should the need arise.

The legal requirement is for parish councils to meet at least four times a year, with one of those meetings being the Annual Meeting of the Parish Council in May.

The Parish Council meets monthly and advertises its meetings for the year ahead, but it is perfectly lawful to miss one or two of those meetings if the Clerk:

• Simply does not call the meeting i.e. does not publish a notice of meeting and agenda within the required time.
• Notifies the public via the website, social media and noticeboards that: ‘The meeting scheduled for X date will not be going ahead due to X reason which, currently would be ‘to minimise the possible health risk to parish councillors, the clerk and local residents from Coronavirus’
• It is not possible to cancel a properly called meeting. However, if your meeting has already been called, it may be prevented from going ahead due to the likelihood of it being non-quorate because:
i. Government has issued a directive not to hold public meetings.
ii. Councillors are reluctant to attend because of their age or underlying health issues which would make them more susceptible to a severe form of Coronavirus.
iii. Councillors and/or the Clerk have contracted Coronavirus or are self-isolating.
If this is the case, then the public should be notified via the website, noticeboards social media and the venue that the meeting is unable to go ahead.

In all the above circumstances, the proposed date for the next meeting should be made known to local residents, but it should be pointed out that the next date will also be subject to national/local circumstances prevailing at the time.

2.2.2 There is a legal requirement for every parish council to hold an Annual Meeting of the Parish Council in May and also to hold an Annual Parish Meeting between 1st March and 1st June. The only lawful way for these two meetings not to be held is if Government issues dispensation to all parish councils not to hold those meetings. SALC will keep the Council informed if Government issues such a directive.

2.2.3 Parish council business can continue in the absence of one or two meetings if:
i. There is a parish council minute stating that the parish council has given the clerk delegated powers to spend up to a certain amount between meetings when unforeseen circumstances occur. Whilst it is hoped that such delegation has been previously authorised, if that is not the case for your parish council then it is still lawful for your clerk to spend against specific items in your budget i.e. for contractors, hall hire, staff’s salary, all of which will have been identified in the budget when setting the precept.
ii. All payments under delegated powers or in accordance with budget must be reported and recorded in the minutes of the next parish council meeting.

2.2.4 There is a parish council minute stating that the parish council has given the clerk delegated powers to comment on planning applications between meetings when unforeseen circumstances occur. All planning comments made under delegated powers must be reported and recorded in the minutes of the next parish council meeting. If the clerk has not previously been given delegated powers to comment on planning applications in unforeseen circumstances, there could be a legal challenge if comments are submitted to the planning authority by the clerk on behalf of the parish council. However, there is nothing to stop individual councillors from submitting views independently.

2.3 Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR)

After the completion of accounts at the close of the financial year (31 March), they must be certified by the council’s responsible financial officer (RFO), considered and approved by full council by no later than 29 June, and published by 30 September. If a planned full council meeting is not able to approve the accounts e.g. the meeting is not quorate due to councillor absence, then an extraordinary council meeting can be called at a later date as long as it is within this timeframe. If councils are concerned about potential delays, they may wish to consider approving the AGAR as early as possible, for example, at an April meeting rather than waiting for the May/June meetings. Again, special dispensation may be given by Government to allow this should the need arise.

3. SUPPORTING LOCAL COMMUNITIES

Local councils are ideally placed to inform and support residents as they already do in so many spheres and this will almost certainly be the case should an epidemic/pandemic occur. The Parish Council will assist, where possible, in encouraging new volunteers to come forward to help vulnerable people .

4. REVIEW

This Policy will be reviewed every three years unless amendments are required due to a change in Government legislation.

Last modified: March 26, 2020