Will councillors still be able to vote if they can’t meet in person?
Local government legislation formerly stipulated that councillors must be physically present to vote and this requirement has already led to the widespread cancellation of Council meetings. There is a limit to what can be achieved under the chair’s emergency powers and delegation to officers.
The Government has now legislated to allow for remote voting until 7 May 2021. The secondary legislation required was issued in draft on 2 April and has been in force since Saturday 4 April.
The legislation allows for committee meetings to go ahead where members and any members of the public attending remotely can all times “hear (and where possible see) and be heard (and where possible be seen) by the other members in attendance”.
It remains to be seen how many local authorities take up the opportunity to hold a virtual committee meeting. Concern has been expressed that the demographic of local councillors may mean that members have difficulty with the technological mechanisms for holding such meetings. However, the message from the Secretary of State is clear that wherever possible, the planning system should keep moving in these current times.
If changed circumstances mean that a business wants to exit from a contractual arrangement, then before trying to terminate it, a careful review should be carried out to see whether a right to terminate actually exists. For example:
- Not every contract for the sale of goods contains the right for the buyer to terminate in circumstances where the supplier hasn’t done anything wrong. If a business has entered into a contract on the supplier’s standard terms, it is unlikely to contain any such provision
- A contract for the provision of services is unlikely, if drafted by the customer, to contain a provision that allows the supplier to walk away from the arrangement at short notice, or perhaps at all
If a party tries to terminate a contract when it doesn’t have the right to do so, the other party will likely claim breach of contract and could sue for damages. In the case of a long term or high-value contract, this could amount to a very significant liability.
Even if the right to terminate the contract does exist, there might be particular rules about the following:
- How much notice has to be given
- How such notice has to be served (for example, it might have to be in writing to a particular address)
- When the notice can be served (perhaps on an anniversary of the start of the contract)
- How much a party has to pay if it cancels (for example, for raw materials, for work done to date, or even the whole contract price)
All of these factors must be taken into account, and any contractual processes for termination are followed.
The definition of a relevant establishment is a question of fact for an Employment Tribunal. Guidance from case law says that ‘establishment’ should be interpreted very broadly (so as to avoid employers escaping the need to collectively consult), and may consist of:
- A distinct entity
- With a certain degree of permanence and stability
- Which is assigned to perform one or more tasks
- Which has a workforce, technical means and a certain organisational structure to allow it to do so
However, there is no need for it to have the following:
- Legal, economic, financial, administrative or technological autonomy
- A management which can independently effect collective redundancies
- Geographical separation from the other units and facilities of the undertaking
The immediate impact is accounting for payroll purposes for the additional cost of 13.8% employers NIC’s and 0.5% apprenticeship levy on top of the payment to the contactor’s PSC.
Secondary NIC’s cannot be recovered from payments due to employees and the same applies under the new IR35 regime. However, new terms can be agreed with reduced level of fees to reflect this additional cost.
It is where the need for a role at a specific site, or the number of people performing a role, has ceased or diminished or the site closes down.
Contractors working for public sector organisations who are deemed employees for IR35 purposes may be eligible to be furloughed provided they are paid via PAYE. In this scenario the agreement to furlough would be made between the contractor’s personal service company (PSC) and the fee payer (usually the agency). The parties would agree that the contractor will carry out no work for the public sector organisation while furloughed and the fee payer would apply for the grant.
At the moment the guidance states that in order to be eligible a claim for furlough must have to have been submitted by 31 July 2020 for a period of 3 weeks between 1 March and 30 June 2020.