Coronavirus forces council meetings to be axed
PUBLISHED: 19:37 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 19:38 16 March 2020
Picture: RIDUNA HOLDINGS
Suffolk’s councils have begun to axe meetings as a result of coronavirus – with East Suffolk and Suffolk County Council the first to shelve meetings.
On Monday afternoon, council chief executives from Suffolk were among more than 300 briefed by Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, in which he pledged to give councils the support they need to tackle the situation.
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Following that, East Suffolk Council declared that its full council meeting on Wednesday, March 25 would not go ahead, before Suffolk County Council announced it had shelved its meeting this Thursday.
An East Suffolk Council spokesman said: “Until Public Health and government advice changes, East Suffolk Council will assess the requirement to hold its meetings on a case by case basis.
“Full council, however, is the largest regular meeting in our calendar and, in the current climate, the council believes it is sensible to adopt a cautious approach.”
May 20 is its next scheduled full council meeting.
Nicola Beach, chief executive of Suffolk County Council, said: “In light of the current situation and evolving government guidance, we feel it is appropriate and sensible to cancel our full council meeting on Thursday, March 19.
“The council is doing everything it can to continue to deliver key services to the people of Suffolk, especially to support our most vulnerable residents, and adapt where possible, but be considerate of the potential impact of bringing large numbers of people together. We will be making decisions on all meetings on a case-by-case basis and we will update members and staff accordingly.”
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An Ipswich Borough Council spokesman said all its meetings were still going ahead as planned until further notice.
A Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils’ spokeswoman said: “We will be keeping regulatory functions operating normally for as long as possible, while following the advice of Public Health England.
“We have a scheme of delegation in place for senior officers to take urgent decisions if councillors cannot meet.
“For members of the public who don’t want to attend our meetings in the meantime, they can keep up to date by watching our live streams.”
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For some issues council chief executives or senior officers can make the decision, but this is not available for all decisions – particularly those of a political nature.
If meetings are cancelled, some of the council’s key decisions are likely to be pushed back until later in the summer.
Among those are the planned shake-up of children’s centres by the county council, changes to post-16 and adult social care transport, and decisions by Ipswich Borough Council for the contractors of the Ipswich Museum revamp and Portman Road multi-storey car park projects.
At East Suffolk the refurbishment of East Point Pavilion in Lowestoft is coming up, as is the decision on funding for the Southwold hospital and fire station developments.
In West Suffolk property investment, Bury Christmas Fayre and the local plan draft are all up for consideration in the coming weeks which could be threatened if any meeting has to be cancelled.
MORE: Suffolk Coronavirus Facebook page
The local elections for Ipswich Borough Council and the police and crime commissioner have already been postponed until next year, following government guidance issued last week.
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