A guide for parish and town councils in Northamptonshire
This page was first published on 6 March 2020 and last updated on 3 November 2020 at 16:00hrs (added Coronavirus Briefing No.7).
This page will be updated with information, guidance and answers to frequently asked questions related to the Coronavirus outbreak. The information is for parish and town councils in Northamptonshire. For general advice, members of the public should visit the UK government's Coronavirus information page.
The Basic Position
Parish and town councils have responded brilliantly to the Coronavirus pandemic and are managing the impact that widespread infection is having on the council's ability to conduct its business. The country is once again in "lockdown" meaning that people should only leave their houses when necessary and should observe social-distancing guidelines.
Parish and town councils have a community leadership role, which means having a cautious but realistic and practical stance. Parish and town councils should try not to contribute towards public panic by, for example, promulgating false or alarmist information.
Parish and town councils can play a key role in disseminating timely, accurate and responsible advice to communities via noticeboards, web sites and social media channels.
Northants CALC Coronavirus Weekly Briefings
A series of weekly briefings were produced to supplement and summarise the information on this web page and provide member councils with a regular round up to help keep them informed. These dedicated briefings were discontinued at the end of April 2020, with member councils kept informed since through the regular Friday mini eUpdates. The Coronavirus briefings are listed below, with the most recent at the top. A new briefing (no.7) was added just before the start of the second national lockdown.
Northants CALC Coronavirus Briefing No.7 - 03/11/20
Northants CALC Coronavirus Briefing - No.6 - 29/04/20
Northants CALC Coronavirus Briefing - No.5 - 22/04//20
Northants CALC Coronavirus Briefing - No.4 - 15/04//20
Northants CALC Coronavirus Briefing - No.3 - 08/04//20
Northants CALC Coronavirus Briefing - No.2 - 01/04//20
Northants CALC Coronavirus Briefing - No.1 - 25/03/20
Coronavirus - Community Response
Any individual, group or organisation (including a parish or town council) that wishes to contribute to the community response should register on Northamptonshire County Council's dedicated web page (link below).
NCC is coordinating the county-wide response, working in partnership with all the borough and district councils, the emergency services, the voluntary and community sector and health organisations.
By registering your activity, NCC will be able to connect you with the right support and guidance, and will be able to direct people needing your help to you.
Local Elections 2020
The Local elections scheduled to take place on Thursday 7 May 2020 have been postponed until May 2021 (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-51876269).
Parish and town councils with casual vacancies should advertise them in the usual way. If a bye-election is demanded to fill the vacancy it will be held on or after 6 May 2021. If no bye-election is demanded, the council should fill the vacancy by co-option as soon as reasonably practicable.
Council & Public Meetings
The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020 and made provision for the Secretary of State to bring forward regulations on local authority meetings, including the ability to hold them virtually.
The Local Authorities (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Meetings) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 4 April and allow parish and town councils to meet virtually on a platform such as Zoom. They also cancel the requirement to hold an annual meeting in 2020 (although one may be held if the council wishes it).
An explanation of the regulations and guidance on virtual meetings was issued in the Northants CALC eUpdate Mar/Apr 2020.
Internal & External Audit
The 2020 round of end of year internal audits is now complete. The audit work was all done remotely, which worked very well.
Beware Scammers & Fraudsters
Times like these bring out the best in people, and the worst in people. Unscrupulous exploitation of the situation includes:
- Fraudulent emails containing hyperlinks or attachments, which people in a heightened state of worry are more likely than normal to click on.
- Advice circulating on social media that people self-isolating should physically mark their houses in some way if they need help, e.g. by displaying a sticker in their front window or tying a ribbon to their front door. This is effectively putting a target on the house for people up to no good.
- People offering goods that are in temporarily short supply (e.g certain cooking ingredients) or increased demand (e.g. face masks) for sale at knockdown prices, taking payment and then never delivering the goods.
- Fraudsters posing as volunteers and conning vulnerable (particularly elderly) people by taking their credit cards so that they could do their shopping for them, and then making additional unauthorised purchases.
The list above is a small sample of the depths some people will stoop to. It's a time for being extra-vigilant, pausing before clicking, and making sure that online and offline security measures are in place and up to date.
For further information see https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/.
The Government has now advised that public gatherings must not proceed as it not possible to maintain social distancing at all times.
The Role of Northants CALC
Northants CALC will keep member parish and town councils informed via the Friday mini eUpdates as the Coronavirus pandemic progresses. We are liaising with colleagues at the National Association of Local Councils and with county, district and borough councils to help local government bodies in Northamptonshire to respond proactively and appropriately.
We will communicate any significant developments (e.g. directives from the Government or from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)) to all member councils immediately via this web page and/or email.
This web page will be updated as and when there is new information available.