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Virus leads council to scrap their calendars of meetings

Every meeting been cancelled by Arun District Council for at least two months.


The unprecedented decision was taken by its leader, Cllr Dr James Walsh. It means seven scheduled meetings will no longer take place.


The next meeting due to be held is the council’s annual meeting on May 20 but only if the coronavirus emergency clears. Former GP Dr Walsh is the council’s only remaining original member from 1974.


He said nothing similar to the mass cancellations had happened for 75 years.


“I have never seen anything like it before, and it’s certainly unprecedented since the Second World War,” he said.


“In these unprecedented times, we have to be guided by the advice from the chief medical officer and central government.


“The safety and wellbeing of our local population and employees are paramount, and that is why all meetings are cancelled for the foreseeable future, with urgent decisions being taken by cabinet by email and phone, with the advice of officers, many of whom are working from home.


“It is essential that we all remain calm, look out for housebound and elderly neighbours, and above all do not selfishly panic buy in the supermarkets.


“We await further government guidance on financial support for those laid off work with mortgage or rent and power bills to pay, but welcome the support to retail businesses with the business rate suspension.”


All other councils in the area have also cancelled. Most are set to hold their next meetings in May.


West Sussex County Council has taken 11 meetings off its diary. Leader Paul Marshall said: “These are unchartered waters for the whole country and it is vital we keep people safe as we, as a nation, navigate this situation.


“However, there is incredibly important work and decisions that need to be continue despite this global pandemic and we are working through the detail as to how we can do that.”


Bognor Regis Town Council stopped its annual town meeting going ahead on Monday. It is now due to take place at 7.30pm on June 1 in the town hall.


All other meetings have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.


The mayor’s civic reception, due to take place next Thursday at Butlin’s, will not go ahead either. It is hoped it will take place at a later date.


Cllr Lilian Richardson, Aldwick Parish Council’s chairman, said at its finance committee on Monday: “We have had information from Arun that we are all to stop all but essential working.


“My guess is that this will be our last meeting for at least 8-12 weeks before we are able to recommence.”


No meetings of Bersted Parish Council will be held until May at the earliest. No chairman’s reception will take place.


Clerk Debbie Holcombe said: “Please be assured the parish council is still working behind the scenes on your behalf.”


All meetings have also been cancelled by Pagham and Felpham parish councils.

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