COVID-19 and its Impact
Over the past few weeks, the UK has seen our whole way of life change due to the threat of the Coronavirus. We are all affected by this and are having to do things differently. Along with every organisation, we have to ensure we do everything to reduce the transmission of the virus.
The scale of this pandemic has led to a number of changes in law to the way local government works, amongst other areas of UK law, to ensure we do our part.
Council Meetings & Committees
For the first time in history, councils are now permitted by law, to hold on-line meetings – using technology to achieve this. Sevenoaks District Council held its first full council meeting using the Zoom Software – where all officers and members could hold the meeting, debate and take decisions from their own home. This was streamed live via You-Tube.
HPC has tested this software, and we will be reviewing meeting requirements. It is likely we will start using this system for our committees initially. We await further government advice for further decisions on this.
Annual Parish Meeting & Annual Meeting of the Council
The new law has removed the statutory requirement for local councils to hold Annual Parish/Town meetings, and Annual Council Meetings (where members are appointed annually) for 2020. Hextable Parish Council has taken the decision, alongside our colleagues at District, to not hold both the annual meetings in 2020. Therefore, this means that the current civic year will now effectively be a two-year period. Chair, Deputy Chair and all appointed committee members will remain in place until May 2021
Annual Return – The change to the law has relaxed the annual reporting deadline for local councils to file the annual financial return for the civic year 2019/20. Our Annual Return is required to be submitted by September 2020.
Keeping our Village Tidy
We continue to cut the grass in our open spaces, and empty bins as all councils are doing - to maintain our space available for daily exercise. As the vast majority of us have been at home, it is probably worth mentioning that there has been a huge additional pressure on waste generation from household in a number of areas:
Domestic waste and recycling – The district council is dealing with the equivalent waste generation that is see in the Christmas week. All this is being managed by the same team, who have been working flat out to keep up with our weekly collections.
Household Waste – The waste creation by households has been added to by many people using the time at home to clear rooms etc. We understand the implications of the current closure in the household tips at present and how this is adding additional pressure to the weekly refuse collections. We are working to push for the re-opening of the household tips.
Fly-tipping - Fly-tipping has increased, but it is worth remembering that the penalties do remain in force. Householders also have a Duty of Care to check that anyone they use to take away and dispose of their domestic waste is registered with the EA as a Waste Carrier. This includes persons advertising ‘Tip Runs / Waste Removal services’ on social media. Householders could be prosecuted for failing to comply with their Duty of Care if they fail to take reasonable measures to ensure their domestic waste is not handled by an unauthorised waste carrier. The unlawful deposit of trade waste at a HWRC could also be investigated under the Fraud Act 2006 if required.
To report fly-tipping, this is the link https://www.gov.uk/report-flytipping
Bottle banks – As with the additional household waste, so too we have seen a huge increase in the number of bottles being taken to the bottle banks as you would imagine. With the closure of restaurants and pubs, people are quite simply getting through more bottles! Please be patient with the SDC team that continue to do the weekly collections – there is a finite resource for this.
Garden Waste Sacks - We have a reducing stock of brown sacks, and these are in much greater demand than ever before. Availability of these is dependent on stocks being made available from Sevenoaks, and we are having to limit numbers – but this too is obviously affected by the current crisis. Please contact the Clerk during the normal hours to see if we have stocks to help you
Dog Waste – We have seen in certain areas cases of discarded used dog bags. Hextable Parish Council have several dog bins around the village – which we are responsible for emptying regularly. For those residents that use these responsibly – thank you.
Sevenoaks District Council – Local Volunteer Scheme
Sevenoaks District Council has implemented a huge support network for our vulnerable residents across the district. SDC started on day one of this pandemic in setting up (from scratch) a support scheme - where volunteers were registered with the council and provided with ID lanyards so they can be recognised by those in need.
The help ranges from daily welfare calls from officers to arranging deliveries of food parcels to the most vulnerable people. SDC has been working with the likes of private companies to deliver this service.
Officers at the District Council, like many other employees in the UK are adapting to a change in the way of working - either doing their regular work differently or doing a completely different role temporarily. In both cases, the officers have been doing this from home remotely.
On top of the herculean response to the pandemic, the council continues to work on providing all the other statutory services, such as planning applications and weekly refuse collections.
Local Volunteers in Hextable
Every week I hold a video call with Rev Johnny Douglas (Our SDC Community Champion) to check in on the work of our local volunteers in Hextable. On behalf of all our residents, and in particular those reliant on the support, I would like to personally thank all the volunteers who have been directly supporting our immediate community.
Chairman Hextable Parish Council – 27th April 2020