On Monday 30 March 2020, an Extraordinary Council meeting was convened by the Mayor of Newbury, Cllr. Elizabeth O’Keeffe, to enable the Council to respond to the Coronavirus emergency.

The meeting was held ‘virtually’, with Councillors, Council Officers and members of the public able to join the meeting safely, whilst adhering to Government Guidelines to ‘Stay at Home’.

Cllr Martin Colston, Leader of the Council addressed the meeting, saying, “We are in unchartered waters right now with the Covid-19 crisis. Along with other local councils around the country we are doing our utmost to maintain as many of our essential services as we can while at the same time protecting the safety of our residents, our Officers and Council Members”.

He continued, “We are focussing our resources on maintaining the essential services that we are still allowed to deliver, notably, Shaw Cemetery, maintaining our open spaces and keeping them open, the Market, public toilets at the Wharf and our allotments”.

To ensure business continuity, several items were approved at the meeting which included

amendments to Council regulations (Standing Orders) to ensure that meetings can be facilitated ‘virtually’.  

Changes were made to make it easier to reach a quorum for Committee meetings by increasing the number of named substitute members for each committee, so that they can be covered should Councillors become unavailable to attend virtual meetings.

It was resolved at the meeting to suspend, where appropriate, the Council’s Strategy 2019-2024 and to also re-allocate budgets, if necessary, to enable the Council to respond to the current crisis, whilst keeping within the agreed precept level.

The Council also agreed that it would support the Community Support Hub and authorised Officers to take all reasonable actions in response, allocating appropriate resources towards the Hub in addressing the current emergency. The Hub is the Building Communities Together Team supported by colleagues in the voluntary sector, council services and partner agencies such at the TVP and the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service to help respond to the community’s concerns.

“In terms of the Town Council supporting residents during the lock-down, we believe that marshalling resources centrally through the new Community Support Hub is the right approach. I have been tremendously heartened with the way our local community has responded to ensure support for the elderly and vulnerable. Many of our Members are actively involved in these groups as well as with local charities and other organisations. We will continue to offer our individual and collective support to these local groups where we can, while also supporting the work of the Hub”.

None of us know how long this situation will continue, but I feel sure that when we come out at the other end, the strong community spirit that we are witnessing now will stand us in good stead as we move to get things back to normal”.

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