It is right and sensible that Fareham Borough Council has adapted to COVID conditions. This is no time for the regular run of council meetings and debates when Councillors are themselves self-isolating and minimising contact with the public and FBC employees.
But that does not mean total suspension of democracy or the stifling of urgent issues. Fareham’s Lib Dem Councillors still have an important role during this crisis.
Urgent decisions that might normally be debated in public at Executive, scrutiny panel and full Council meetings are now being made directly by the Council’s chief officer, or in some cases by individual executive members.
But that doesn’t lessen the need for democracy and transparency. Opposition spokesmen are being offered telephone or online alternatives to the regular briefings we have with the Council’s directors, and the opportunity to put questions to them as the situation develops.
We will use this access to ensure that agendas and decisions remain open to scrutiny. In future articles we will discuss what changes might be necessary to the timetable and content of the Council’s policies as the effects of the crisis become clearer.
Some residents have expressed fears that the COVID-19 crisis might be used as an excuse to push through policy changes in secrecy without clear accountability. We see no evidence of an intention to do this, but there is always a risk that emergency powers can be misapplied under the pressure of urgent need. So all decisions that would normally be discussed in open council meetings must be published to all councillors.
What also matters is that all citizens are able to get through to their local Councillors.
Obviously, our regular surgeries and street meetings are on hold, but all Lib Dem Councillors are willing to respond to calls, emails and messages.
Please keep in touch. Your Lib Dem councillors can be found through the Contacts tab at the top of this site or on About The Council on fareham.gov.uk . You can find us on Facebook and Twitter via @FarehamLibDems.
And for the next few months the public Facebook group we have set up, Fareham Coronavirus Support Group can also be used to share key information and links to organisations providing support. Meanwhile we echo the NHS advice – Stay Home and Stay Safe.