NALC UPDATES (including Coronavirus webpage updates)
New model code of conduct consultation
High standards of conduct and behaviour are of huge importance to the local (parish and town) council sector as they are needed to protect the integrity of decision making, maintain public confidence, and safeguard local democracy.
NALC therefore strongly encourages local councils and county associations of local councils to consider the proposed new model member code of conduct and respond to the LGA consultation before the deadline of 17 August 2020.
We all know the impact that poor behaviour, bullying and harassment can have on individuals and on local councils as organisations, so it is vital we continue to work as a sector to improve standards and push for further reform, at both local and national level.
Therefore, while NALC will be responding to the consultation and engaging further with the LGA, we are also calling for further action by the government to introduce a new power for local authorities to suspend councillors for a period of up to six months, and for the Committee on Standards in Public Life to review progress on the implementation of the reports wider recommendations.
New legal guidance
Legal Topic Note 8: Elections has been updated to make it more relevant for the needs of local councils and to clarify our guidance on co-option. It is now called Elections and co-option. Legal briefing L15-08 has been removed from the website. Do please note that the updated LTN should be read in conjunction with our Legal Briefing L03-20. You can access the briefing in the members’ area of both the LALC and the NALC website (login required).
Local council meetings
Today we updated our dedicated Coronavirus webpage with a statement on local (parish and town) council meetings. Following the government announcement of further easing of lockdown restrictions from 4 July, both NALC and the Society of Local Council Clerks are strongly advising local councils to continue to meet remotely, without the need for face-to-face contact. You can read the statement in the Local Council Activity and Operations section, under Local meetings
Meeting with the local government minister
Our chairman, Cllr Sue Baxter, held her first meeting with the new local government minister, Simon Clarke MP, on 22 June, making strong representations on council finances, which you can read more about in our news story here. While the minister was very positive indeed about the role of our councils in communities, including proposals likely in the devolution white paper this autumn to take forward the communities framework, we pressed hard on the more immediate issue of financial support for those councils most impacted by the pandemic. The minister did recognise the financial pressures facing councils and agreed to reflect on our representations. Sue also took part in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government webinar for local government leaders on 25 June, which was hosted by the secretary of state, Robert Jenrick MP, and again raised the issue of financial support. We will be writing to the minister to follow up on our meeting, as well as engaging further with officials, and rest assured we will be continuing to work with county associations and local councils on this important issue.
Coronavirus — information for parish & town councils
NALC has updated its dedicated webpage on the coronavirus. This includes updates on advice for users and parents, Arts Fund grants, free litter posters, inspections, public toilets, local council meetings, play areas, first aid training, remote meeting guide, re-opening and hygiene, risk assessment and helping high streets. See the updates below:
Advice for users and parents
- Children and parents must not interfere with closure measures where a playground remains closed. If it is closed then this will be for a good reason. Do not endanger yourself by breaching closure measures. Wait until the playground has been opened properly.
- Maintain social distancing within the playground, according to the government’s latest advice.
- If the playground is too busy then find another playground in which to play.
- Wash your hands before entering the playground and after you have finished. Use hand sanitiser often.
Arts Fund Respond and Reimagine Grants
The Arts Fund has announced new Respond and Reimagine Grants to help museums, galleries and cultural organisations respond to immediate challenges connected to the COVID-19 crisis, and offer support to adapt and reimagine ways of working for the future.
Free posters and resources to help discourage littering
- Natural England has updated its Countryside code.
- Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has created some posters and other materials for partners to use, which are geared toward use on beaches/in coastal areas.
- Keep Britain Tidy have created a range of anti-littering campaign resources.
- It is important that playgrounds are inspected before opening to ensure they are suitably safe for visitors. The British Standard EN 1176-1:2017 sets out a three-tier inspection system: a) routine visual inspections, b) operational inspections, and c) annual main inspections.
- We recommend that all playgrounds are up to date with their inspections before opening to the public.
- It is likely that playgrounds will be used heavily once they are opened. It is therefore important that operators consider the frequency of their inspections. It may be that routine inspection will need to be undertaken more often to detect problems arising from misuse, vandalism, litter, wear and tear and weather conditions.
Lockdown loo is a free website that encourages organisations and members of the public to provide information on which public loos are open. Do have a check of your local area and update or add information to help people find local facilities.
Local council meetings
Following the government announcement of further easing of lockdown restrictions from 4 July, both NALC and the Society of Local Council Clerks are strongly advising local councils to continue to meet remotely, without the need for face-to-face contact.
On 26 June, the government produced guidance for managing playgrounds and outdoor gyms. NALC will be engaging with the government on the impractical nature of much of this guidance and the financial implication for local councils.
RoSPA has provided NALC with additional information to complement government guidance: The government has announced that in England children’s playgrounds are allowed to open from 4 July 2020. It is important that playgrounds are suitably safe for use and have an effective inspection and maintenance regime in place prior to opening.
Psychological first aid training
Front line staff and volunteers at the forefront of the coronavirus response across England will be able to access a new Psychological First Aid (PFA) training course developed by Public Health England. The free online course teaches responders how to give practical and emotional support on issues such as job worries, bereavement or isolation to those affected by COVID-19.
On 28 June, Local government minister, Simon Clarke MP and environment minister, Rebecca Pow MP wrote to councils setting out the government’s position on public access to household waste recycling centres and municipal public toilets, which includes government guidance on opening public toilets.
Remote meetings guide updated
At the time of writing this guide, NALC strongly advises local councils to continue to meet remotely, without the need for face to face contact. However, it is worth starting to think ahead to when local councils may be able to start holding in-person meetings again. This updated guide includes a description of what councils must take into consideration when planning for how to hold council meetings in future, plus some practical steps to hold effective hybrid meetings.
Re-opening and hygiene
Playgrounds must be opened in a safe way in accordance with government guidance. If the playground remains closed then it is important that it is still inspected. It is also important that any closure measures (such as signage and locks) remain in place and remain effective. These measures will need to be checked during routine inspections.
Support to help high streets
The High Streets Task Force, an alliance of place-making experts that provides encouragement, tools and skills to help communities and councils transform their high streets, have launched a range of support for high streets in England. The support, which is available to local councils and all organisations involved with high streets, includes free access to online training programmes and webinars, as well as data and intelligence on topics including recovery planning and coordination, public space and place marketing.