Author: Gregg Redford

Councils given new powers to hold public meetings remotely

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HM Government has brought in new Regulations in part to relax the requirement that Parish Council Meetings must be held ‘in-person’. The new regulations allow Parish Councils to hold meetings, in particular via Video Conferencing. Your Parish Council in anticipation of the change in the law has been trialing Video Conferencing systems and is ready to go ahead with the next meeting in April using his method. Details of how residents can attend the meeting remotely will be published as soon as possible.

The text of the Government Announcement is given below:

  • Local Government Secretary confirms local authorities can hold public meetings remotely by video or telephone

  • Government removes requirement for physical attendance at meetings

  • Public will still have access to public meetings through remote means

  • Change ensures effective local decision making and transparency during the national effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic

Local authorities in England have been handed new powers to hold public meetings virtually by using video or telephone conferencing technology from Saturday (4 April 2020).

The government has temporarily removed the legal requirement for local authorities to hold public meetings in person during the coronavirus pandemic. This will enable councils to make effective and transparent decisions on the delivery of services for residents and ensure that local democracy continues to thrive.

Meetings will remain accessible whilst ensuring that councillors, staff and the wider public are able to follow government advice by staying at home to stop the spread of coronavirus to protect the NHS and save lives.

Local Government Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:

Local authorities are the backbone of our democracy and they are playing a vital role in the national effort to keep people safe. This change will support them to do that while maintaining the transparency we expect in local decision making.

Councillors and staff are already doing the right thing by following our advice to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives. This includes working from home wherever possible, and the new powers to hold meetings virtually will make that easier.

It’s critical that they continue to provide essential services and find innovative ways to maintain important economic functions they perform like the planning system and they will now be able to do so.

We’ve given local authorities across England an additional £1.6 billion to help their crucial work in the national effort against coronavirus, and we are continuing to ensure they get all of the support that they need at this time.

Local Government Association Chairman Cllr James Jamieson said:

Councils are working tirelessly to support their communities as they rise to the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus crisis.

Giving councils powers to hold meetings remotely is important to maintaining local democracy and allowing critical decisions to be made during this public health crisis. Councils need to respond quickly and make very many key decisions. They can now do so while remaining open, transparent and accessible to the public.

Remote council meetings will crucially help ensure all those taking part stay at home, helping to prevent the coronavirus from spreading and save lives.

The change applies to all local authorities in England and covers all categories of public meetings including annual meetings, cabinet and committee meetings.

The requirement for public meetings to be made accessible to the public remains, but it will be up to each local authority to decide how they conduct meetings, how voting procedures work and how to ensure that the public has access.

The government is also working to bring in new law so that by-elections, local polls and referendums cannot be held before 6 May 2021. The Coronavirus Act 2020 has already postponed local and Police and Crime Commissioner elections scheduled in the UK for Thursday 7 May 2020 until 6 May 2021.

Further information

  • The change applies to all local authorities in England, which includes county councils, district councils, combined authorities, parish councils, joint committees constituted to be a local planning authority, fire and rescue authorities and national park authorities. They apply to meetings of a local authority, an executive of a local authority, a joint committee of two or more local authorities, and a committee or sub-committee of any of those bodies.

  • The regulations also enable Police and Crime Panels in England and Wales to take place remotely, so they can also continue their important work in local areas.

  • Existing rules about the number of councillors or members of a group required to attend to make a meeting valid will remain, but virtual attendance will count.

  • We are working with the Local Government Association and other representative bodies who are considering developing guidance for local authorities about holding remote meetings.

  • This announcement applies to England (and to Wales for Police and Crime Panels). Whilst local government is a devolved matter, the Department has been engaging closely with colleagues in the devolved administrations.

  • Saturday 4 April 2020 is the day that the local authorities gain the power to hold remote meetings. However, for most local authorities the practical effect will be from the start of the working week when they hold most meetings.

  • The Regulations were made in Parliament on 2 April 2020 and apply to meetings taking place before 7 May 2021. The government is able to legislate to bring forward this date if medical and scientific advice leads to the relaxation of social distancing rules.

  • We’ve provided local authorities with £1.6 billion to help them respond to coronavirus pressures across all the services they deliver. This includes increasing support for the adult social care workforce and for services helping the most vulnerable, including homeless people.

Some useful advice for parents

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Councillor Faulconbridge has pointed us to some excellent targeted advice from the British Psychological Society. They can be read by using the links below.

Talking to children about illness according to their age and development stage.

Advice for parents on the effects of school closures.

As one of the above papers say ‘Children are not little adults….’ , we are in a unique situation and any insight into helping children cope must be useful.

 

Categories: Children Coronavirus

Community and Support Volunteering Hub

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Notts County Council are continuing to work with all seven District and Borough Councils to further their COVID-19 Community and Support Volunteering Hub.  Lots of details are available on their website, which welcomes emails or phone calls from volunteers, as well as those seeking support for free between 8.30am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday: 0300 500 8080.  Please promote this service in your community wherever possible.
The County say at this difficult time, it’s really important to get in touch with friends and family and make sure they’re not facing challenges alone.
Perhaps spend some time today to consider those connections in your phonebook who might be staying at home alone and relying on a phone call for their next conversation.
Even if it’s only a few minutes in between activities to keep the kids entertained, or a short half hour after dinner to update them on your day – a phone call to a loved one could make a huge difference to their wellbeing this week. If you’re particularly concerned about a friend or family member who is by themselves at the moment, please consider visiting Nottinghamshire’s community support and volunteering hub to see what further support is available.

Policing and Coronavirus

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The following information has been provided by  PC Shinn (Rushcliffe South – Nottinghamshire Police).

The Rushcliffe south beat team based at Cotgrave have been patrolling around the villages and towns of Rushcliffe since the restrictions have been put into place by the government.

We would like to thank the big percentage of people that are following the government and NHS advice and guidelines around Coronavirus (COVID-19). Local people have generally been seen walking around in quite small numbers and keeping the required 2 metres distance from others.

Where we see, or are being made aware of gatherings of people not following this guidance we are engaging, advising and dispersing the groups.

However as we have been patrolling we have seen a number of vehicles being used by people to travel to rural locations to take their ‘up to an hours’ exercise.

The advice from the professionals is that people should take their exercise from their home address and not travel by car to another location to do this.

Due to the reduction in traffic we have seen less Road Traffic Collisions (RTC’s), but if people continue to drive to areas away from their home unnecessarily, this creates a risk of emergency services and breakdown providers having to attend should you break down or have a RTC, putting those people at risk of infection and the virus being spread.

The following links provide further information which has been publicised through various media outlets.

What you can and can’t do
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do#can-i-drive-to-a-national-park-or-other-green-space-to-walk

Guidance on access to green spaces
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-guidance-on-access-to-green-spaces

Within the above links are other short cuts to further information and is subject to change at short notice as the health professionals and government review.

We are dealing with a national health emergency and strongly encourage people to adhere to the guidance at all times; this will help prevent the spread of the virus in our communities.

#stayathome

Categories: Coronavirus Police

Government cracks down on spread of false coronavirus information online

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PLEASE NOTE: WE ONLY PUBLISH ADVICE AND INFORMATION DIRECTLY ATTRIBUTABLE TO CORONAVIRUS FROM OFFICIAL (HM GOVERNMENT, PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND AND THE NHS) SOURCES.

The Government released the press release below in respect of fake news across social media.

Specialist units across government are working at pace to combat false and misleading narratives about coronavirus, ensuring the public has the right information to protect themselves and save lives.

The Rapid Response Unit, operating from within the Cabinet Office and No10, is tackling a range of harmful narratives online – from purported ‘experts’ issuing dangerous misinformation to criminal fraudsters running phishing scams.

Up to 70 incidents a week, often false narratives containing multiple misleading claims, are being identified and resolved. The successful ‘Don’t Feed the Beast’ public information campaign will also relaunch next week, to empower people to question what they read online.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

We need people to follow expert medical advice and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. It is vital that this message hits home and that misinformation and disinformation which undermines it is knocked down quickly.

We’re working with social media companies, and I’ll be pressing them this week for further action to stem the spread of falsehoods and rumours which could cost lives.

When false narratives are identified, the government’s Rapid Response Unit coordinates with departments across Whitehall to deploy the appropriate response. This can include a direct rebuttal on social media, working with platforms to remove harmful content and ensuring public health campaigns are promoted through reliable sources.

The unit is one of the teams feeding into the wider Counter Disinformation Cell led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, made up of experts from across government and in the tech sector.

The Cell is engaging with social media platforms and with disinformation specialists from civil society and academia, to establish a comprehensive overview of the extent, scope and impact of disinformation related to coronavirus.

The Culture Secretary will be contacting social media companies this week to thank them for their good efforts to date, assess the progress made and discuss what other potential measures can be put in place to ensure accurate, honest information consistently reaches users of their platforms.

Penny Mordaunt, Paymaster General said:

Holding your breath for ten seconds is not a test for coronavirus and gargling water for 15 seconds is not a cure – this is the kind of false advice we have seen coming from sources claiming to be medical experts.

That is why government communicators are working in tandem with health bodies to promote official medical advice, rebut false narratives and clamp down on criminals seeking to exploit public concern during this pandemic.

But the public can also help with this effort, so today we implore them to take some simple steps before sharing information online, such as always reading beyond the headline and scrutinising the source.

The public can help stop the spread of potentially dangerous or false stories circulating online by following official government guidance – the ‘SHARE’ checklist (see further information). This includes basic but essential advice such as checking the source of a story and analysing the facts before sharing.

Certain states routinely use disinformation as a policy tool, so the government is also stepping up its efforts to share its assessments on coronavirus disinformation with international partners. Working collaboratively has already helped make the UK safer, providing ourselves and our allies with a better understanding of how different techniques are used as part of malicious information operations – and how to protect against those techniques more effectively.

These measures follow recent advice from the National Cyber Security Centre, which revealed a range of attacks being perpetrated online by cyber criminals seeking to exploit coronavirus earlier this month.

This included guidance on how to spot and deal with suspicious emails related to coronavirus, as well as mitigate and defend against malware and ransomware.

Further information

To help the public spot false information the government is running the SHARE checklist and Don’t Feed The Beast campaign here. This gives the public five easy steps to follow to identify whether information may be misleading:

  • Source – make sure information comes from a trusted source
  • Headline – always read beyond the headline
  • Analyse – check the facts
  • Retouched – does the image or video look as though it has been doctored?
  • Error – look out for bad grammar and spelling

Tree work at the Grange

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The Parish Council have received a number of enquiries from concerned residents about the the tree work at the Grange. Permission had been sought for the work and granted from Rushcliffe Borough Council.  The Borough Councillor Officer, responsible for granting permission for work on trees has since visited the site and confirmed that the work is in accordance with the permission that has been granted.

 

Verge and Grass maintenance suspended.

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The maintenance of our grassed areas and roadside verges which the Parish Council maintain usually start in April.

Our contractor has advised us that they are suspending operations following Government advice on the Coronavirus situation. They will review the situation in two-weeks time, even if they resume operations in two weeks time (which at the moment appears unlikely) the earliest we can expect the programme to start is May, 2020.

The areas affected are:

The Green (Ivy Row)

Roadside Verges on:

  • Old Grantham Road (including Whatton Bridge)
  • Church Street (junction with Old Grantham Road)
  • Dark Lane
  • Beverleys Avenue

The Green on Green Walk is maintained by Rushcliffe Borough Council we have not received any information as yet about any changes in their programme, but suspect their maintenance will be halted for the time being.

Recycling Centres closed.

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Nottinghamshire County Council has announced that it’s recycling Centres are to close, the announcement is shown below.

We regret to inform you that all of our Recycling Centres are now closed following the Prime Ministers statement yesterday.  The sites will remain closed until further notice.

Any waste you would normally take to a Recycling Centre should not be placed in to your kerbside bin. Instead it should be stored safely until the sites re-open.

THE CURRENT ADVICE IS THAT THE KERBSIDE COLLECTION (PROVIDED BY RUSHCLIFFE BOROUGH COUNCIL) OF THE GREY, BLUE AND GREEN BINS WILL CONTINUE AS NORMAL.

New drive for Coronavirus testing

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  • Government working with industry, philanthropy and universities to significantly scale up testing.
  • New partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientific, Amazon, Boots, Royal Mail and Randox, alongside the Wellcome Trust and top UK universities to boost testing capacity for frontline NHS staff.

Dozens of universities, research institutes and companies across Britain are lending their testing equipment to 3 new hub laboratories which will be set up for the duration of the crisis. No equipment already in use for coronavirus testing or other vital work will be taken.

All current coronavirus testing and research will continue, including at existing local NHS and Public Health England test laboratories, and this new programme will add significant new capacity.

Thermo Fisher Scientific and Randox, who make the equipment, are providing extensive logistical and technical support.

The first lab is now undergoing validation which is expected by tomorrow. Once approval is given, it is expected to enter operation over the weekend, initially on a fairly small scale, and processing around 800 samples.

It will be scaled up every week from then on, with 2 other hub laboratories being stocked with equipment and opening soon.

The first samples to be processed in the labs will be taken from frontline health workers. As the labs’ capacity increases, other frontline workers will be tested. The samples will be taken at special sites set up around the country, initially in coronavirus hotspots such as London.

Work is also underway to source more of the kits needed to take samples from people – of which there is a worldwide shortage.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

We want to save lives, protect the most vulnerable, and relieve pressure on our NHS.

Healthcare staff are key in our fight against the virus and I want to ensure that any frontline NHS or care worker who has symptoms of coronavirus or who has a family member with symptoms can be tested quickly and reliably.

I pay tribute to the generosity and public spirit of Britain’s universities, research institutes and companies who have lent us their equipment without hesitation.

Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said:

Laboratory-based testing on this scale is a little like building the medical equivalent of a car factory. We are assembling many different parts, some of them quite specialised and hard to find, then getting them to work accurately together in a highly co-ordinated process. There are bound to be teething problems, so we cannot switch on hundreds of thousands of lab tests overnight. But we hope that soon these hub laboratories will be operating round the clock, allowing us to significantly scale up our testing.

This new service, which will be free, will help end the uncertainty of whether NHS staff need to stay at home. Those who test negative for coronavirus will be able to return to work – enhancing the capacity of the NHS and social care to treat patients and care for those in community settings, with plans for a full roll-out for health, social care and other frontline workers.

Amazon and Royal Mail will help with logistics, while Boots has been supporting initial trials by supplying volunteer healthcare clinicians as testers. It will continue this support as the testing rolls out across the UK. Testing will not be done at Boots stores and these tests will not be available over the counter or for purchase online from any retailers.

Sebastian James, Managing Director, Boots UK and ROI said:

I am extremely proud that Boots is supporting COVID-19 testing for NHS workers. Boots has been at the heart of UK healthcare for 171 years and has always come forward to support the community in times of need. We will work with the NHS to recruit trained professionals – both Boots colleagues and from the wider community.

I am sure there will be many trained healthcare clinicians and students, who will step forward to support our dedicated NHS colleagues. Drive through test locations are being defined but will be spread across the UK; they will not however be in Boots stores, allowing our colleagues to focus on supporting our patients and customers.

Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon, said:

We believe our role serving customers and the community during this time is a critical one, and we are committed to working closely with the Government to identify ways in which we can support efforts to respond to the crisis.

Mark Stevenson, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Thermo Fisher Scientific, said:

Our diagnostic test for COVID-19 will help to protect patients and enable medical staff to respond swiftly to treat those who are ill and prevent the spread of infection. This is closely aligned with Thermo Fisher’s mission – to enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. In partnership with the UK government and our industry partners, we are committed to expanding the availability of diagnostic testing to prevent the spread of this virus.

Randox CEO Dr Peter FitzGerald said:

We are committed to this important initiative to support NHS frontline staff.

We have significant diagnostic capability and assets within the UK and, at this time of unparalleled national need, look forward to working with collaborative partners to meet the Government’s objectives.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, said:

Widespread diagnostic testing during a pandemic is enormously important to controlling the spread of infection. This initiative is a substantial step forward in our ability to fight this disease that will save many lives.

Alongside other difficult but necessary public health measures such as physical distancing, cancelling mass gatherings, and school closures, testing is a critically important part of the response. Wellcome is extremely grateful to the government, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Amazon and Randox for joining this important partnership, and has been supporting this critical initiative.

Rico Back, Royal Mail Group Chief Executive Officer, said:

Royal Mail fully understands the devastating impact of the coronavirus outbreak on families, businesses and communities across the UK. We have a responsibility to help people stay connected, especially in this crisis when many are unable to leave their home.

The Universal Postal Service provides a lifeline for businesses and communities across the UK, and never more so than at this difficult time. We already deliver vital Government mail in relation to coronavirus. We are working closely with pharmacies and NHS trusts across the UK. And we are delivering many prescriptions and hospital appointments. This is of key importance for us. We will safely deliver these vital tests, a key step forward in the nation’s battle against the virus.