Weekly message from Peter Sass, Vice Chair

It hardly seems possible that it’s not even three weeks since the Coronavirus virtual meetings Regulations came into force; and yet already as a sector, colleagues all over the country are nailing virtual Council and Committee meetings. Technological solutions have been examined, tested and selected; additional procedure rules have been drafted (hopefully thanks largely to the excellent ADSO/LLG model: https://www.adso.co.uk/procedure-rules-and-remote-meetings-protocol-now-published/ ); online training and written guidance have been delivered for Members and Officers; Chairs’ briefing notes have been updated; and we’ve all spoken the phrase “your microphone is muted” about 20 times each! The ADSO forum has been alive with questions, information, suggested documentation for virtual meetings etc. so I hope colleagues are also making good use of that. I think we can all be hugely proud of our achievements over the last few weeks. We’ve demonstrated great energy, responsiveness, creativity and diligence, so if you do nothing else this coming weekend, give yourselves a huge ‘pat on the back’ for once again proving the huge worth of our fantastic sector to local government.

Recent weeks have also provided opportunities for closer collaboration with our partner organisations: notably Lawyers in Local Government (LLG), the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC); the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) and the Local Government Association (LGA) and that can only bode well for the future. Our Chair, John Austin, has also been approached to provide articles for the local government press, most notably the Municipal Journal and Local Government Chronicle. John is also taking part in the LLG webinar next Wednesday on parish councils and the impact of the regulations on their remote meetings, so feel free to tune in to that if you work with or for parish and town councils: https://www.lawyersinlocalgovernment.org.uk/webinars?utm_campaign=f0d8887026-Bulletin+260719_COPY_02&utm_medium=email&utm_source=LLG+Bulletin&utm_term=0_c44da0be1b-f0d8887026-120146305

Next, I am delighted to advise you that our very own James McLaughlin (Head of Service (Democratic Services) & Statutory Scrutiny Officer at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and ADSO Regional Representative – North East England and Yorkshire & Humberside) has been appointed to the role of Director of Corporate and Customer Services at Derbyshire Dales DC. James will be the Council’s Monitoring Officer and he will also have senior leadership responsibility for:

– Democratic Services (Committees and Members), Electoral Services, Legal Services, Customer Services, Business Support, Transformation, Communications,

Not only is this a fantastic personal achievement for James, it’s recognition of the calibre of colleagues working in the sector and proof it was ever needed that democratic services has a clear line of sight to managing at the highest level in local authorities. Chief Executive next, James?

A number of our partners have been developing various solutions for the current situation. We have suggested they forward any information they have onto the LGA Hub we mentioned last week. Public i have developed a new remote participation platform called Connect Remote. Unlike the informal environment of Zoom and others, Connect Remote enables meetings to be formally managed in the style of a normal council meeting. It also offers integration with CMIS and Mod.Gov. Following a beta-testing phase, the first release of Connect Remote is now ready. Public i will be holding a virtual user-group next Friday, 1st May at 2pm to demonstrate the new platform. If you are interested in participating or finding out more, please email Sarah Gusterson: sarah.gusterson@public-i.info

The School Admissions Regulations 2020  were published on Friday.  The main feature of the regulations is to remove (or disapply) the need for appeals to be heard in person and allows for them to be conducted by telephone, video conference or a paper-based appeal. The regulations also give flexibility with regards to the number of Panels members, allowing appeals to be considered by 2 Panel Members instead of 3. Our Partners at FCS Software Solutions Ltd who provide AppealsPro (appeals management system) are offering use of their system until January 2021, more details can be found below.

Last but certainly not least, I’m delighted to announce that the ADSO Board has agreed to run the ADSO awards again this year. We will be seeking nominations in three categories, one of which is new:

  • Learner of the Year
  • ‘Rookie’ of the Year
  • Team of the Year

Look out for the assessment criteria, nomination forms and prize information on the website in the coming days. The deadline for completed nominations is 31st July, so there’s plenty of time to get your submissions in.

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