It is hard to believe that it is only four months since lockdown commenced and what has happened since. And the cost is staggering. However, I feel it is time that we stop to consider what has been achieved in supporting our community be that by individuals, organisations or businesses. In the past, a Civic Event has been held, usually annually, at which those who contribute to the life of our town are invited first to a church service and then to a reception afterwards. Such an event is not possible at present. However, I do not want to delay giving recognition where it is timely.
I have, therefore, asked Lata to head a small working group to examine what we can do, how we can do it and when. To help her do this, Viveene and Birgitta have volunteered to assist. Lata has been given Terms of Reference for this role and a copy of our Civic Protocol. Frank or myself will be available as necessary and the Town Clerk will advise. There is a limited budget of £350 available. I hope Lata will be able to report progress and/or her recommendations in time for our September meeting.
I don’t have to say that, like it or not, we are having to work in very different ways. I firmly believe that we must examine whether we are best equipped to do this revised work. I am therefore calling this “Give us the Tools”. Is it right that we should be expected to provide all the IT hardware and software equipment, including internet connections, that is necessary to carry out our role as Councillors without recompense? Can it be right that our Cheshire East colleagues be paid an annual allowance and then, on top, have access to a Cheshire East store of IT equipment available on loan for the duration of the Council’s term of office, when no comparable scheme exists for us?
I believe it is time for this issue to be addressed. Thus I am looking for a cross-party working group of 3 to get to work. I am nominating Frank, Jon Newell and (Oliver or one other) if they will agree. All solutions, which need to be costed, can be recommended to Council including Do Nothing, provide equipment and services, or pay an allowance. This group can also call on both Garry and Mark who have recent/current experience as CE Councillors and, of course, Garry has considerable IT experience. Terms of Reference will be issued shortly.
I should like to end on the subject of an allowance. The claiming of legitimate expenses by Councillors has always been an option but the fact is none of us has ever done so.
Finally, we need to examine the payment of “At Home” allowance to both Matthew and Helen which is part of a nationally agreed stance for such workers.