Keep up-to-date with all the latest news and press releases.
Temporary appointments to support Normandy Parish Council
Guildford in Bloom celebrates 40 years of creative gardening
Right to Buy income reviewed by new working group
Supporting Surrey's new Gypsy and Traveller transit site
Update On Guildford Spectrum
The 2021 Census is Coming - make sure you take part
Five support grants available for local businesses
Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils to explore options for closer working
Our Progress In Tackling Climate Change
Former Mayor and Councillor Jenny Jordan
Budget agreed with challenges ahead
Guildford residents can bid for Surrey's £100 million Fund
Planting project at Stoughton Recreation Ground completed
More Money for Borough Businesses
Walnut Bridge work moves to next phase
Free Online Business Course for Guildford Residents
Proposals Submitted For Weyside Urban Village
Open Letter To The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
Dear Mr Jenrick
Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020
Since October last year when the Chairman of the Local Government Association Cllr James Jamieson wrote to you regarding the above Regulations we have witnessed two important developments. Firstly, a vaccine that we passionately hope will see us out of the pandemic and into a safer future. The Government has set out the rollout of this vaccine that will take time, probably many months and we are all aware of the patience we must exercise whilst this happens and continue to provide a safe environment for our councillors, staff and the public. Secondly, we have seen the appearance of new and more contagious variants of the virus. This was not foreseen and, whilst we hope that such developments will not recur as we continue with our managed and stringent approach, further such outbreaks may not be discounted.
From our lockdown position at the end of January we reiterate the request of the Chairman to extend the ability for councils to hold meetings flexibly beyond 7 May 2021 while we continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot be certain how the pandemic will evolve over the next few months or year, but it remains essential for our councillors to have the ability to hold committee, Executive, and council meetings and make decisions without the need for all those attending the meeting to be physically present.
Time is passing and with only effectively three months until the Regulations expire, we as a council implore you to enact such legislation to allow us to continue to provide a safe environment for our local democracy to function. Further, we would ask you to consider seriously and favourably the introduction of legislation that gives local authorities maximum flexibility to hold meetings totally, or partly, remotely in the future.
Councils around the country, including our own, have responded during the course of the past ten months to put in place equipment and training for both councillors and officers to continue to operate and succeed in delivering business as usual for our meetings. No mean feat. Everywhere, and especially in Guildford, we have seen a boost in attendance at our virtual meetings as our councillors have not had to travel across the Borough with all of the associated obstacles of transportation and care provision.
Below are personal messages to you from two of our Chairman running key meetings virtually:
'As Chairman of the Planning Committee, at Guildford Borough Council, I would like to fully support the ability to continue to hold Planning Committee meetings virtually. Since May 2020, we have successfully held eleven Planning Committee meetings online. Public participation in planning committee meetings is a very important part of the process, and we recognise that they are always some of the best-attended meetings in the council diary. This reflects the fact that planning, development and housing are key priorities for the council. We have ensured that residents are able to attend virtual meetings and, where applicable, be involved in our planning decisions. Virtual meetings also enable the Council to hold Special Meetings of the Planning Committee, to consider large applications, which frequently involves considerable public interest, in a safe manner, which does not compromise the health of its residents, councillors or staff. Virtual meetings have afforded almost 100% attendance by councillors at the Planning Committee meetings to date, as it enables flexibility by preventing the need to have to travel for protracted periods. This same flexibility is also afforded to staff and residents, which can only be seen as a positive for the democratic process as a whole. I therefore implore the government to consider passing legislation to enable the continuation of virtual meetings indefinitely.'' (Cllr Fiona White (Westborough), Chairman of the Planning Committee)
"For effective scrutiny at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in Guildford, the introduction of virtual meetings, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, has proven to be successful and effective. The new flexible way of working has enabled scrutineering work at the Council to continue during testing times, with no loss of debate or ability to challenge and hold decision-makers to account and has supported improved Councillor attendance and engagement. It has also enabled continued access to the public. Indeed, even if the threat of coronavirus was over by May and a return to face to face meetings considered safe for all, I feel it would be judicious to maintain the improvements created from our flexibility to attend and participate at virtual meetings." Cllr Paul Spooner (Ash South & Tongham) Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee
Like so many local authorities we continue to invest in our technical capability to support our decision-making processes as we move out of lockdown and into an environment with more freedom as described by the Minister of State for Communities and Local Government (Lord Greenhalgh) who said on 23 June 2020 that the regulations enable all local authority meetings to be held remotely and do not preclude physical meetings or a hybrid form of meeting where these can be held in accordance with public health regulations and guidance. He suggested it is for each local authority to determine what is appropriate in their specific circumstances, taking legal advice as necessary (HL/5546).
We anticipate enormous logistical difficulties in managing a return to face to face meetings after 7 May if we are required to continue maintaining social distancing, and thereby having to limit the number of councillors and members of the public attending those meetings. This may mean that we have to seek alternative, much larger accommodation for full Council meetings, which will have additional cost implications. Of course, many large venues are already being used as vaccination centres so this may not actually be possible. Furthermore, if we had to use an alternative venue for a Council meeting, we would not be able to webcast the meeting.
You have already indicated publicly that you would like to see the continuation of remotely-held local authority meetings, and with the prime minister's recent announcement that he feels that it is 'too early' to judge if the current lockdown will end in the spring, we feel that it is essential that, as a matter of urgency, you provide support in terms of legislation that will enable us to operate in a safe environment as is our duty, as an employer and as a democratic authority to put the safety of our councillors, staff and residents first.
Councillor Joss Bigmore, Leader of the Council
James Whiteman, Managing Director
Surrey Leaders' Group
Angela Richardson MP
Sir Paul Beresford MP
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Jonathan Lord MP
David Munro, Surrey PCC
Association of Democratic Services Officers
Local Government Association
All Parish Councils (Guildford Borough)
More Support for our Borough Businesses
Local businesses which received support grants for Lockdown 2 in November 2020 will be automatically contacted by us with details of further grants to cover January's Lockdown 3.
The grants are available to businesses which have had to close due to government restrictions or whose supply chain is affected by businesses which have had to close. However, a new application is not needed for the initial 42-day lockdown period which started on Tuesday 5 January. We are contacting everyone by email.
Those that have had to close at any point since 5 November 2020 but have not yet applied for a grant can do so on our website with one application for each business premises, using the form appropriate to the business.
Lockdown 3 grants are based on the rateable value of a business's premises, to cover an initial 42-day period from Tuesday 5 January:
Rateable value up to £15,000 - a grant of £2,001
Rateable value of £15,001 to £50,999 - a grant of £3,000
Rateable value of £51,000 and over - a grant of £4,500
A one-off payment for recipients of the Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) is also available for the same period:
Rateable value up to £15,000 - a grant of £4,000
Rateable value of £15,001 to £50,999 - a grant of £6,000
Rateable value of £51,000 and over - a grant of £9,000
Businesses which continued to offer takeaway, click-and-collect or delivery services despite closure are also eligible for a Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed). Businesses can apply for one grant for each of their qualifying premises. Companies which chose to close, but were not required to, will not be eligible, along with those which are in administration, insolvent or have received a striking-off notice. Businesses which have already received grant payments equal to the maximum levels of State aid allowed under the Covid-19 Temporary State Aid Framework will also not be eligible.
Applicants will need to give references from their rate demand; an image of their bank account, showing account name, number and sort code; their company number, charity number and VAT registration number if applicable; and information on any funds received through state aid or a declaration that the level of funds received does not exceed the limits.
A Christmas support payment of £1,000 is also available for wet-led pubs that derive less than 50% of their income from the sale of food. We have emailed all venues that we think are eligible.
Local Restrictions Support Grant (Open) is available to cover the period 2-19 December for businesses which were not forced to close but supply the hospitality, leisure, travel, holiday, airline, cultural, arts and tourism sectors.
A discretionary scheme is in place to help bed and breakfast businesses which pay Council Tax, and businesses which do not have a rateable value but have high business-related property costs, such as rent or service charges. The scheme can also help businesses in shared premises where they have had to close, and businesses that supply the hospitality, leisure, travel, holiday, airline, cultural, arts and tourism sectors.
Businesses which are not the ratepayer at their premises should supply details of the ratepayer, proof of rent and service charges, and the proportion of the shared premises that they occupy. If a premises has no rateable value, businesses should also provide proof of rent and service charges. Bed and Breakfast owners need to provide their Council Tax bill. Where the business is part of the supply chain to the hospitality, leisure, travel, holiday, airline, cultural, arts and tourism sectors, an explanation of this supply chain and how the business has been affected is required.
Companies that are in administration, are insolvent or where a striking off notice has been made are not eligible for funding.
Grant income received by a business is taxable, and will need to be included as income in the business's tax return.
Lead Councillor for Economy, Cllr John Redpath says:
"We understand that many local businesses are facing ongoing and new financial difficulty due to the continued impact of the global pandemic. As a Local Authority, we are here to support all of our local businesses and provide as much help as we can. We have already distributed over £23 million in government grants and provided business rate relief to businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.
"New grants to help businesses are being introduced regularly. All new schemes are published on our website. We would recommend that businesses bookmark this page."
Cllr Redpath continued: "We invite all businesses to get in touch as we may be able to help in other ways, including through our assistance to help businesses follow new licensing guidelines. We have also been working with the Community Foundation for Surrey's Coronavirus Response Fund, as the Mayor of Guildford's chosen charity for 2020-21, to match fund any donations to support local charities and voluntary organisations helping vulnerable, elderly and isolated members of the community. Businesses can also get information and support through the Enterprise M3 Growth Hub, at www.enterprisem3growthhub.co.uk/.
"Additional help may be available through the government's Kickstart Scheme and new investment in 'green' jobs. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has also this week published information on additional resources available to employers and employees, including support offered by the National Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses, at www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-support-for-business-from-outside-government."
Published Wednesday 27 January