BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLAN
Approved: Full Council
Date: Wednesday 18th March 2020
1.1 This Business Continuity Plan has been prepared for Billingham Town Council with reference to its Officers, Councillors, volunteers, services and activities.
1.2 Billingham Town Council actively seeks to protect the Officers, Councillors and volunteers working for and on behalf of the Council and its activities.
1.3 This document sets out the general principles and approach that the Council will follow and undertake in relation to COVID-19.
- SCOPE OF THIS PLAN
2.1 The main areas of concern for Billingham Town Council in relation to COVID-19 are:
- Ensuring the health and safety of all Council Officers, Councillors, volunteers and members of the public participating in Council activities;
- Maintaining effective and lawful decision-making processes;
- The continuing operation of essential services and contractual obligations.
- BACKGROUND - COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
3.1 A pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 31st December 2019. It was later classified as a new disease: COVID-19. The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30th January 2020.
3.2 The Coronavirus disease was confirmed to have spread to the United Kingdom (UK) on 31st January 2020. On 11th March 2020, the WHO categorised the outbreak as a pandemic and then subsequently stated on 14th March 2020 that Europe is now the centre of the pandemic. As of the 12th March 2020, the UK has classified the risk as high.
3.3 On 3rd March 2020, the government published its Coronavirus Action Plan and subsequently, The Health Protection (Coronavirus Regulations) 2020 have been put into place to reduce the risk of further human-to-human transmission in the UK by keeping individuals in isolation where public health professionals believe there is a reasonable risk an individual may have the virus.
3.4 On Monday 16th March 2020 the Government issued new more stringent isolation guidance as follows:
- Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new continuous cough;
- If you live alone and have a high temperature or a new and continuous cough you should self isolate for seven days;
- If you live in a household with others and have a high temperature or a new and continuous cough, both yourself and all others in your household should stay isolated together for 14 days;
- Everyone, including if you are not displaying symptoms yourself and live in a household where no one is displaying symptoms should stop all unnecessary contact with others and all unnecessary travel;
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible;
- Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this;
- Avoid venues such as pubs, clubs, theatres and restaurants;
- Pay particular attention to the advice if you are over 70, pregnant and have underlying health problems and to significantly limit face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible;
- People in at-risk groups will be asked within days to stay home for 12 weeks.
3.5 The virus is now spreading quickly in the community and the Government will be making self isolation measures mandatory to protect the over 70’s and other ‘at risk’ groups from being infected, whilst controlling the rate of infection in low risk groups who have mild symptoms but on recovery be available for work and no further danger to infecting the ‘at risk’ groups (developing herd immunity).
4.1 A significant proportion of Officers and Councillors are either in ‘at risk’ groups themselves or have close family members they either live with or care for, that are.
4.2 The Town Council cannot control what people do in their personal time and how they choose to respect (or not) the guidance being issued, or indeed, take additional steps to limit their exposure however,the Town Council’s measures should reflect the Government strategy and prioritise the shielding of all ‘at risk’ groups.
4.3 COUNCIL OFFICE CONTINUITY
4.3.1 The Town Council office is situated within the Library and Customer Service centre in Billingham Town Centre. Whilst access to the office is by keypad system, this is a public building and Officers do have contact with members of the public. Office staff do have close family members who are in the ‘at risk’ groups.
4.3.2 In the event of closure, all office staff have the appropriate equipment to work from home. All calls to the Town Council office number can be forwarded to the Town Clerk’s mobile telephone. Information will be placed on the Council’s website, social media and at the office in the Library.
4.3.3 The Town Clerk will be responsible for the overall control of assets, services and functions. In the absence of the Town Clerk, this will be undertaken by the Deputy Town Clerk.
4.3.4 In accordance with Standing Orders and Scheme of Delegation, the Council shall function under the Town Clerk’s delegated powers.
4.3.5 The Town Clerk shall authorise payments in accordance with Financial Regulations and provide financial information/accounts control sheets to all members and committees (where possible) and operate within the Council’s agreed budget.
4.3.6 The Town Clerk will take emergency action/spending as indicated in Standing Orders/Scheme of Delegation and report this to the Chairman of the Council and the Chairman of the Finance & General Purposes Committee and report back actions taken in due course to the relevant committee/Full Council meeting.
4.3.7 The Town Clerk will hold the debit card for the main Town Council account. This will be held in a secure location. Zurich insurance has been informed and advised that this is acceptable.
4.3.7 The Town Council shall operate PAYE, pension, salary payments as normal using Xero software.
4.3.8 The Town Clerk and Deputy Town Clerk will provide regular updates and reports on activities and decisions to the Council, as is practicable to do so in the circumstances.
4.4 CAFE IN THE PARK
4.4.1 The Cafe in the Park is located within John Whitehead Park. The cafe is predominantly used by older members of the public. The health and safety of all customers and staff is the Town Council’s top priority and we are taking preventative measures to maintain a clean and safe environment however, the latest Government advice is to avoid venues such as restaurants, theatres etc.
4.4.2 In the event of closure, all perishable food will be donated to Billingham Foodbank. Products that can be frozen, will be done so. All stock kept to a minimum.
4.4.3 Stockton Borough Council Surveillance centre will be made aware of any closure. The building will be kept alarmed and the shutters closed at all times.
4.4.4 The Town Clerk will hold the keys to the Cafe and the adjoining Annexe. These will be kept in a secure location. Regular checks on the inside of the building will be carried out by two members of staff or one member of staff and a Councillor.
4.4.5 The Town Clerk will hold the debit card for the Cafe account. This will be held in a secure location. Zurich insurance has been informed and advised that this is acceptable.
- To allow all office based staff to work from home from Friday 20th March. This will allow preparations to be made beforehand.
- To close the cafe from Thursday 19th March 2020.
C Under continuous review.
- SALARIES, WAGES, SICK LEAVE AND ANNUAL LEAVE
5.1 The National Joint Council has issued guidance on the response by Employers to paid absence from work owing to coronavirus in accordance with the Green Book terms and conditions. Staff will continue to receive their salaries/wages subject to their contract and Green Book for:
- Working from home
As the cafe closure is recommended in the interests of public health, all cafe staff will be paid for their contracted hours.
Reference also to ACAS Guide ‘Coronavirus: Advice for Employers and Employees’.
5.2 SELF ISOLATION
5.2.1 Currently, NHS advice states that anyone displaying coronavirus symptoms should stay at home for 7days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms. Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if you cannot feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, your condition gets worse or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online. Any period of self-isolation will be treated as absence with full pay but not as sickness absence.
5.2.2 Employees who are actually ill will be treated as off sick with associated sick pay in the usual manner as per their contract. However, employees cannot just unilaterally decide to self isolate without providing the Town Council with reasonable justification in order to qualify for full pay.
5.2.3 It is important that all staff and Councillors inform the Town Clerk if they are ordered to self-isolate or feel ill.
5.2.4 Any annual leave booked over any period of self-isolation, illness or working from home will carry over in accordance with Green Book and ACAS guidance.
6.1 All Town Council’s meetings, committee meetings, sub-committees will be suspended where it has become necessary to close the Council office.
6.2 Councillors are asked to continue to carry out their duties from home as far as practicable.
6.3 The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is engaging with the Smaller Authorities' Audit Appointments (SAAA) about audit and with the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) as a matter of urgency on a range of issues. These include:
- Councils being able to use their discretion on deadlines for Freedom of Information requests;
- The deadline for local government financial audits to be extended to 30 September 2020;
- Bringing forward legislation to remove the requirement for Annual Council meetings to take place in person;
- Bringing forward legislation to allow Council Committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period.
6.4 FULL COUNCIL & COMMITTEE MEETINGS
6.4.1 The Town Council has the following meetings scheduled for March and April 2020:
- Full Council - 31st March 2020
- Planning & Services Committee - 9th April 2020
- Finance & General Purposes Committee - 9th April 2020
- To cancel all of the above meetings and deal with any urgent issues by delegation to the Town Clerk, Chairman of the Council and the relevant Chairman of the Committee.
6.5 ANNUAL TOWN MEETING - 28TH APRIL 2020
6.5.1 The Annual Town Meeting is not a Council meeting, but is a meeting of local government electors registered for the area for which it is held. It must be held between 1st March and 1st June. (Local Government Act 1972, Sch 12, para 14 (1), (4).
- To reschedule this meeting to a later date before the 1st June 2020.
- To issue a cheque in respect of the Chairman’s Charity before the office closes.
- To match fund the £407.00 raised for the Chairman’s Charity using the underspend from the 2019 Summer Event budget. This will be in recognition of the increased demand Billingham and Stockton Foodbank will face due to current circumstances.
6.6 ANNUAL MEETING - 21ST MAY 2020
6.6.1 The Town Council must hold an Annual Meeting every year which, because this is not an election year, must be held in May. (Local Government Act 1972 Sch 12 para 7 (1) (2).
6.6.2 There is only one statutory item of business and that is the election of the Chairman. However, normally the Annual Meeting also elects Committees etc as stated in Standing Orders. Standing Orders also states that the Chairman, Vice Chairman and those of Committees hold office until the next Annual Meeting, so until that meeting occurs, then the current positions remain.
- To proceed on the agreed date and wait for further Government/NALC advice.
6.7 Other statutory requirements applicable to the Town Council/Parish Sector may be suspended by the Government in an emergency situation.
7.1 The Government is now discouraging social gatherings including visits to pubs, clubs, restaurants etc. The Town Council’s planned events have been assessed as follows:
- Community Lunch - to be postponed until further notice;
- Easter Activities - to be cancelled;
- VE Day Activities - to be cancelled however, the Council could consider holding an event for VJ Day in August 2020;
- Half term activities in May - to be cancelled;
- Big Community Lunch (7th June) - to review this at the end of April with the possibility of cancelling the event;
- Sports in the Park Events (First 2 weeks of August) - to continue preparations;
- Summer Event (15th August) - to continue preparations.
- As above however, Government advice to be followed.
8.` COMMUNITY ACTION FUND
During the unprecedented circumstances at this time, communities are at risk of significant financial hardship. As a local Council we should be at the forefront of efforts to alleviate the symptoms of financial hardship due to self-isolation as per Government guidelines. Therefore, we are allocating funds to a Community Action Fund of £5000 to be used to support community action, not only by ourselves, but other partner organisations.
All spending will be under delegated responsibility to the Town Clerk, Chairman of the Council and the Chairman of the Finance and General Purposes committee.
The Town Council’s efforts will be managed from with the Cafe in the Park and Annexe.
- To approve the use of £5000 from the Cafe account to establish the Community Action Fund.
- To review as required, depending on changing circumstances and Government guidance.
- SOURCES OF INFORMATION
9.1 The Town Council will be acting on information and guidance available from the following sources to which all Officers, Councillors and members of the public will be signposted.
Coronavirus - UK Government Response
General Information to the Public
Guidance for Non Clinical Settings - Employers and Businesses
NHS Overview, Symptoms and Advice
Government Action Plan
Government Advice for Self Isolation at Home
Getting Workplace Ready
NALC Advice (as at 17th March 2020)
This Business Continuity Plan may be subject to change without notice in the light of Government advice.