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VIRTUAL COUNCIL MEETINGS END

Councils will not be able to hold virtual council meetings after 6 May when the Government refused to budge on changes to legislation.
In a letter to council leaders the local government minister Luke Hall said the Government had ‘concluded that it is not possible to bring forward emergency legislation on this issue at this time’.
The minister suggested the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to the over 50s and vulnerable people meant that there would be little risk. He also highlighted existing powers for councillors to delegate decision making to the head of paid service to cut the number of meetings.
Under the current rules, gathering for business events would not be allowed until 17 May, and Parliament would be allowed to continue remotely until 21 June but councils would need to hold their first council meeting post-election in person.  (Published by localgov.co.uk: 26 March 2021)

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COUNCILS PAY TRIBUTE TO HRH PRINCE PHILIP

HRH PRINCE PHILIP, the Duke of Edinburgh, died peacefully on 9 April at the age of 99. He was married to HM the Queen for 73 years and served as her consort for almost 70 years. His funeral was held at Windsor Castle on 17 April, with a national one-minute silence at 3pm. Around the country, councils and organisations paid tribute to his long years of public service.

FROME in Somerset opened a virtual book of condolence on the council’s website. In THAME in Oxfordshire flags were flown at half-mast, and civic engagements, committee meetings and events began with a period of silence. In KIRKLEES, West Yorkshire, Union flags were flown at half-mast on council buildings and town halls, and the council opened an online book of condolence. The mayor of WISBECH in Cambridgeshire laid flowers outside the town hall. FIELDS IN TRUST, of which Prince Philip was for many years president, published a full tribute on its website.



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CIVIC AWARDS FOR SELFLESS VOLUNTEERS

Last year’s mayor of FROME in Somerset, Cllr Mark Dorrington, was finally able to present his Civic Awards at an online council meeting. He singled out four individuals for recognition. Radek Evans volunteers for a variety of organisations, helps with the Community Fridge and is a Noticeboard Ambassador. Frome’s Neighbourhood Sergeant, Rachel Clark, was recognised for her fundraising work for local charity We Hear You. Gill Fone has played an important part in many local organisations, including running the Talking Newspaper. Dawn Cunningham set up Frome’s CAB back in 1974.



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COMMUNITIES PAUSE TO REFLECT ONE YEAR ON

In SEVENOAKS in Kent, the mayor and deputy mayor, Cllrs Nicholas Busvine OBE and Dr Merilyn Canet, marked the anniversary by planting two yellow rose bushes in the newly created memorial rose garden at the Bat & Ball Centre, a project recently completed by the town council. Residents can arrange for a memorial rose to be planted in the garden for a loved one. The town held a minute’s silence dedicated to the memory of loss and suffering during the pandemic, the victory of life and the achievements of those in the caring professions.

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IN BLOOM IS BACK

AYLESBURY in Bloom’s Garden Competition is back this year, having been forced to take a break in 2020. Organised by the town council, the free-to-enter competition has separate categories for residents, schools, and organisations and businesses around the Buckinghamshire town. Winners will be recognised with bronze, silver, silver gilt or gold awards, and there will be special prizes for the best overall gardens in the different classes. The organisers are hoping to hold an in-person presentation night on 16 September.

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CAUTIOUS REOPENING FOR PLAY FACILITIES

BICESTER Town Council reopened most of its remaining play parks from 15 March, working with a local cleaning company to sanitise equipment in preparation. A further 38 parks were opened across the Oxfordshire town for the first time since March 2020. The council reminded people to adhere to government social distancing guidance, including keeping at least two metres apart and regularly washing hands. This came after earlier concerns that too many people were congregating in parks and that young people were using the skate park despite it being closed. Signs were put up advising the maximum number of users permitted and urging people to check how many were already there before entering.

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EASTER BOOST FOR OUTDOOR EVENTS

WITHAM Town Council in Essex held its first event for over a year with its Easter Quest, which kicked off plans for a full bill of events. The non-contact outdoors event kept the risk of transmission to a minimum, with families asked to pre-book tickets. They could then follow a route along the town’s River Walk, spotting a number of large, colourful eggs before collecting a special Easter prize at the end. There was also an appearance by the Mad Hatter – pictured with deputy mayor Cllr Angela Kilmartin – who entertained families from a safe distance.



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TOWN RECOGNISED FOR DEMENTIA WORK

AYLESBURY Town Council in Buckinghamshire has received “Working to become a Dementia-Friendly Community” accreditation from the Alzheimer’s Society for a fifth consecutive year. Since 2016, the council has delivered over 95 sessions and has created more than 2,500 Dementia Friends. It has received support from a host of local groups and organisations, including retailers and traders, community spaces and emergency services. It has delivered information sessions in schools and colleges, and has supported groups and businesses to make positive changes to help people with dementia and their carers, such as altered opening hours or making signage clearer.

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GROUNDS TEAM TRIAL GREEN OPTIONS

To help cut the use of pesticides, WARMINSTER Town Council in Wiltshire has been trialling four alternative methods to control weeds at the Lake Pleasure Grounds and its other sites: manual weeding, mulching, vinegar or acid-based solutions and annual flower mix planting. Flower beds are already regularly hand weeded and shrub beds mulched every two years, and these practices will be extended. The planting of an annual flower mix will serve the same purpose and will also be beneficial to pollinating insects. In addition, the council has taken delivery of an electric-powered mower and utility vehicles.


 

 

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