Council agrees to suspend dozens of meetings in response to coronavirus risks

Councillors have formally agreed a proposal to suspend dozens of meetings in response to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic although some will still take place.

The decision was made by Brighton and Hove City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee this afternoon (Thursday 19 March).

Unusually, just the three party leaders attended the meeting at Hove Town Hall in line with government advice to hold council meetings remotely or not at all.

Despite their political differences, all three said that they would work together as far as possible to make the temporary arrangements work over the coming four months.

The Labour council leader Nancy Platts said: “I want to thank all council staff across the departments who are working flat out and around the clock to deliver vital services to our residents in difficult circumstances.

“The council – like many others in the public sector – provides essential public services to residents, some of whom are vulnerable.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that some of services the council provides protect people’s lives, whether this be via our social work or by ensuring payments are made so that people have money to buy food and heat their homes.
“We are working hard to keep fundamental and critical services running, protecting our most vulnerable residents.

“Some of these key roles simply cannot be performed from home and where these business-critical services are being identified, staff working within those services will be supported to work from their normal place of work.

“It’s just not possible to stop carrying out these services.

“That is why, as a council we are doing everything we can to keep democracy running as smoothly as possible, to keep key services across the city up and running – and to work with partner organisations and residents across the Brighton and Hove to contain the spread of the covid-19 virus.”

Conservative leader Steve Bell said that members remained committed to transparency and scrutiny.

Councillor Bell said: “When times are difficult we are prepared to put party politics to one side, to come together to work together to strengthen each other.

“Also to ensure we get the right messages out to the members of our group and to the wider city.

“I don’t welcome the days ahead for obvious reasons but I’m confident that, with the attitude, direction of travel and the commitment we have shown so far, if we continue to do that, this will be a success, we will beat this and we will come out a lot better at the end.”

Green group convenor Phélim Mac Cafferty said that his fellow councillors stood with the council’s officers during this stressful time.

Councillor Mac Cafferty asked how the council would with three vacancies in its top team of seven executives.

He said that he was concerned about the pressure on senior management and staff in general as they had to work harder to cover for colleagues who were off.

Chief executive Geoff Raw said that he hoped to fill the senior vacancies as soon as possible.

He said: “The whole of the management team, the top 100 managers, have responded fantastically.”
Mr Raw said that they had had to deal with a situation that was changing rapidly and the many government announcements resulting from that.

He said: “We are being sensible ourselves. If we need to isolate, we isolate. We are keeping distance and showing by example how we should operate.”

Mr Raw said that the situation was a marathon, not a sprint.

Councillor Platts thanked the other party leaders for their support and added: “I’m confident we can work together and get through the difficult times ahead.”

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