So for many of us I guess the last few days have all been about grappling simultaneously with new ways of working, family life changing and gearing up for the journey ahead in light of this dreadful virus. Our responsibilities as carers, partners, parents and family members must come first. Social distancing measures are going to be in place for some time so we will need to get used to new routines and think more about how we support those who need help.
Many Local Authorities have introduced some sort of emergency measures for the Council meetings and decision making, some have cancelled all. We expect the regulations will be issued this week on remote attendance at meetings in the meantime I know that many of you are looking at solutions and how they will work in a more practical sense.
The House of Commons briefing paper
ADSO has written to the Municipal Journal (MJ) urging all local authorities to find suitable technology to enable them to hold virtual meetings effectively and to protect public rights of access. There are a number of different options and finding the right solution for each Council’s needs will be crucial. There will be opportunities, challenges and risks. Some of the options do not suit larger meetings or the inter-action required for others; reliability and connectivity problems are likely, particularly when councillors will be relying on their home WiFi; and new meeting protocols are needed. Remotely delivered training in using new meeting technology will also be required for chairmen, members and officers. All this against a backdrop of governance arrangements being reduced to a minimum and Councils making increased use of emergency and urgency powers within delegation schemes to make important decisions. Only the most essential meetings will be taking place, so Councils have to be realistic in how much money they spend on technology, that may not be of such use when we return to normality.
NASAC held their meeting on Friday via Zoom, attendees reported that it was not clear when regulations addressing admission appeals would be provided and thought it would come soon. They also shared experiences of using skype and Zoom to hear appeals but was recognised that doing them in this way took much longer. There were concerns that as a result of the current situation, local authorities could receive an influx of late appeals as appellants may not being able to gather evidence from GPs or other agencies to support their appeal. Many also advised that they had started to contact their panel members to find out their ability to participate in virtual appeals.
The forum discussions have proved really helpful to me and my team, and there are lots of ideas and potential solutions being discussed in some detail. Worth having a look, thanks for contributing and please share your ideas and experiences in the relevant threads.
The Board met on Friday (via conference call) and dealt with essential business only. The Board agreed the communications report which set out some improvements to our web presence. Another discussion focused on the draft programme for our November conference. We will keep the situation under review and decide in May if the event is going ahead. That might seem early, but we will incur quite significant cancellation charges if we delay beyond that point. The Board also agreed to appoint Joanna Boaler from Essex County Council as Associate Director, part of her role would be to help with the technology improvements and communications. Joanna has just returned from maternity leave and is keen to resume her involvement with ADSO. Welcome back Joanna.
We are also pleased to announce that Debbie Janes and Emma Tombs will be taking over from Joanna as the regional representatives for the Eastern region on a more permanent basis. We thank them for covering for Joanna so well for the last 12 months or so. All three will add real value to the Board and the work of ADSO regionally and nationally.
You will have read in the newsletter last week that as a Member of ADSO you are also automatically a member of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.(IIMC). Each Member is entitled to participate in the ballots of the IIMC. Please do open the link below and participate in the ballot for the Vice President of the IIMC. The closing date for the ballot is Tuesday 20 April 2020.