Weeky message from John Austin, Chair

I’m standing in for Susan Biddle this week. I had a text from Susan recently and she is recovering well from her operation. She will gradually ease her way back into her work over the summer. We look forward to seeing her again as soon as possible.

I hope you all managed to have a good Easter weekend. It was such a strange feeling not being able to celebrate it properly and enjoy the nice weather with family and friends. But staying at home is so crucial to beating this virus and it’s good to see the vast majority of people adhering to the rules.  Although you do wonder what planet some people are on when you see them being stopped in their cars by the police on the way to the Lake District for a nice weekend. I was outside my house at 8pm on Thursday applauding all the key workers and was chatting to my neighbour over the garden fence (at a safe distance you’ll be pleased to hear!). She is a nurse at the local hospital and is in the front line in treating Covid 19 patients. What she told me about the lack of PPE made my blood boil. One of her colleagues is having to make facemasks for the whole team. She also told me of a number of instances where they constantly run out of even basic things like handwash. And they don’t apparently get paid for their breaks. Unbelievable! Her daughter works in a local care home and the situation seems even worse there. Something tells me that St Thomas’ in London would have had the best PPE available when treating Boris.

I know a number of you have been diverted to Covid 19 related duties and you are undoubtedly playing your part in supporting your local communities. Once again this shows the versatility and commitment of local government which we can all be proud of.

You will also be grappling with the changes brought about by the remote meeting regulations. Thank you to those who have sent messages of appreciation for the work ADSO is doing to support you as members. It is important that we step up to the plate and do what we can to help you and also try and influence what is coming out of MHCLG – not an easy task at the best of times. The LGA has recently launched its Coronavirus Hub which has lots of information to support local councils and councillors covering all aspects of local authority functions. It’s still work in progress and I’ll be feeding back some suggestions for improvement next week, but I think it’s an excellent start in such a short timeframe. We have agreed with MHCLG that they will take questions in relation to the practical interpretation and impact of the regulations and I will arrange for another thread on the forum to be set up where you can post any queries you might have. We have also set up a separate part of our website for Covid 19 related issues, so they are easier to find and be referenced quicker.

 

Together with LLG, we are about to embark on drafting model standing orders following the regulations. Thanks to Jenni Swift at North Kesteven for sending me a copy of their first draft which we will use as a base document. If you have done likewise, please send them to me and together we’ll produce a much better document. I’ve already had a set from King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Council so thanks to them too. My aim is to produce the draft as soon as possible after Easter and then get them round for consultation.

I hope many of you were able to access the LLG webinar last week on the remote meetings and election regulations. LLG are happy for ADSO members to access any of their regular webinars if they are relevant to our sector.

I understand that LGC and the MJ are offering free access to their on-line publications during the crisis so take that opportunity if you don’t already subscribe.

Following an enquiry from one of our members, we have purchased an e version of Knowles for use by learners and assessors. Thanks to Sue Keogh for organising that. South West Councils sent an e mail last week telling those concerned. Get back to them if you have any problems accessing it.

During the current crisis, activity on the members’ forum has understandably focussed on the emergency. We have tried to split the issues up as much as possible, but some inevitably overlap. Other separate posts include:

 

Microsoft Teams/Pow Wow Now technology

New Committees

Voting During remote meetings

Planning Committees

Parish Council agendas

 

Finally, during the nice weather, be very careful when you are doing the gardening. It can be a very dangerous pastime! Our very own John Lynch (having just moved into his mansion in Sussex) fell recently whilst in the garden and dislocated his shoulder. It was the opposite one to the shoulder he totally smashed a few years ago when he came off his bike at over 30 mph – with no helmet. Us oldies should clearly not be allowed out on our own.

 

All the very best everyone and keep safe.

 

John

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