Emergency committee to deal with Brentwood Council business

Brentwood Borough Council is to create a special emergency committee to take the place of its council committees during the coronavirus crisis.

There have been no democratic decisions made since the policy, resources and economic development committee sat on March 18.

A full diary of meetings is not anticipated until restrictions are lifted to allow that.

But in the meantime the emergency committee will meet as and when needed, including informal meetings on a regular basis, if required, to provide key updates on the council’s approach to the crisis and its impact on the borough and the council.

It means that during the period when COVID-19 is front and centre of the council’s priorities, it will have three committees – emergency, planning and licensing and audit and scrutiny.

It will only sit as a planning committee if that committee is unable to and an urgent decision is required.

It will be able to take decisions on finance matters, which normally require the whole council to vote on.

A statement accompanying a report as part of an extraordinary meeting due for tomorrow (April 29) when the council will vote to adopt the emergency committee, said: “Officers during the current pandemic are working to ensure that the most vulnerable are supported and that the council can carry on its daily business as best as it can.

“At present the whole country must comply with social distancing and must work at home unless the nature of their role prevents this. There is a lack of resources to be able to operate a full committee system at present, but there is a recognition that in order to have democratic decision making if there was a need for an important, urgent decision to be made, that would normally go to council or one of its committees, calling an emergency committee would be the most democratic method.”

Council leader Chris Hossack said: “What we don’t want to do is have a full calendar of meetings because frankly we don’t have the capacity right now for officers to do that.

“So we have to cut these guys some slack and allow them to focus on dealing with COVID-19.

“While we cut them that slack period should an emergency decision need to be made democratically we can convene the emergency committee. Should it not need to be then we won’t convene it.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter