Norfolk council granted emergency powers due to coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 12:50 02 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:50 02 April 2020

Broadland District Council has voted to grant itself emergency powers due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Denise Bradley

Broadland District Council has voted to grant itself emergency powers due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Denise Bradley

A Norfolk council has voted to grant itself emergency powers due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Broadland District Council held an extraordinary meeting last night (Wednesday, April 1) to discuss how decisions would be made if the pandemic meant meetings could not take place.

And councillors have voted for a series of crisis powers which will see decisions taken by an emergency committee - if regular council meetings cannot be held.

Prior to the emergency meeting, council and committee meetings were due to go ahead as planned, with members attending virtually via a video or audio link in line with social distancing rules.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Meeting called to grant emergency powers to council

But the council said it “cannot always be guaranteed that enough members will be able to attend meetings for them to go ahead”.

In a report on the extraordinary meeting, monitoring officer Emma Hodds said: “Due to the current situation with Covid-19 work needs to be undertaken to ensure that council business and decision making can continue in these unprecedented times.”

Councillors were asked to consider three recommendations:

• To agree to the structure of the emergency committee,

• To suspend the rules against members not regularly attending committees,

• And to agree when meetings will be held over the next year.

The role of the emergency committee will be to take decisions for the council’s key committees: council, cabinet, planning, licensing and audit.

The committee will also “ensure single points of failure are reduced and that the council can continue to operate in emergency and unprecedented situations”.

READ MORE: ‘Please call and we will help you’ - councils’ words to the vulnerable during coronavirus outbreak

The monitoring officer also said: “The scrutiny role in the local authority is an important one, with the focus of this committee being undertaken at the right time.

“The time for scrutiny in such unprecedented times will be to review the process after the Covid-19 impact has reduced and enable lessons learnt to be undertaken.”

The emergency committee will meet formally when required and informally on a weekly basis.

The councillors making up the emergency committee will be cabinet chairman and vice-chairman Shaun Vincent and Trudy Mancini-Boyle, opposition leader Steve Riley, portfolio holder for housing and wellbeing Fran Whymark, and two other members who will be selected for “political balance”.

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