Bulletin – 3rd September
Website Accessibility Regulations: Compliance Deadline 23rd September
A reminder that the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 require public sector bodies, which includes parish councils, to ensure reasonable adjustments are made to websites so they are accessible to people with various disabilities. These include impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments or learning disabilities, and deafness or impaired hearing.
From 23rd September 2020 all local council websites will have to comply with the Regulations. This will involve having an action plan and an accessibility statement in place, and being able to demonstrate that they have started work to their websites to make them more accessible.
The attached NALC publication will help member councils ensure that they are compliant with the requirements. The publication provides practical steps that councils can follow to understand the new regulations, put in place an accessibility statement, and start plans to improve the accessibility of their website.
NALC “Health and Wellbeing Week”
NALC has revealed details for its Health and Wellbeing Week in October, as part of the Rebuilding Communities online event series.
Many parish and town councils across England have stepped up to support health and wellbeing in their communities, and now COVID-19 has permanently embedded their role. Health and Wellbeing Week will showcase their importance to community health.
The week, which takes place between 26th and 30th October, will feature seven online events. The event themes will cover:
- Local councils and the COVID-19 health agenda
- The future of health challenges post COVID-19
- Community revival through COVID-19
- Collaboration through health and wellbeing
- Local councils and hidden disabilities
- Supporting mental health in your community
Ticket prices start from £30 for single events and £210 for the full week. Health and Wellbeing Week is sponsored by BHIB Councils Insurance, Blachere Illumination and CCLA.
Funding & Grants Bulletin
The latest edition of NALC’s Funding and Grants Bulletin is attached.
Message from the Keep Britain Tidy Campaign
Great British September Clean
Be part of the pick on 11th to 27th September 2020. This year’s campaign was postponed due to Covid-19. Now we are back and here’s how you can get involved and show support for the ‘Great British September Clean’. ‘
Continue reading: https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/home
NALC’s Current Advice on Furlough Arrangements
The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available to public sector organisations and the guidance states that “the government expects that the scheme will not be used by many public sector organisations, as the majority of public sector employees are continuing to provide essential public services or contribute to the response to the coronavirus outbreak”.
NALC feels that the government guidance at this point is not clear on whether local councils could reclaim salaries from furloughed employees or not. We have continued to seek more detail from the government to clarify this situation.
It would appear to be possibly relevant for those staff whose jobs have fallen away as a result of the restrictions being put in place to fight COVID-19 and where they cannot be reallocated to other roles. At the heart, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is to help avoid redundancies. For example, where a local council has community facilities that have been closed as a result of COVID-19, there will be no income from these facilities to pay for the caretaker or other staff who run the facilities.
So where local councils have staff who are unable to work in their current roles, where that role is funded from income other than precept, and they are unable to be redeployed to another role to support the response to coronavirus, the council may wish to consider furloughing those staff with the hope of being able to reclaim a portion of their salaries. But at this stage, while NALC could not be certain that the council would be successful in claiming back that salary, we are hearing from councils that have been successful in applying. Therefore if councils believe it is appropriate to apply then they should consider doing so.
There have been recent headlines about a crackdown on ‘furlough fraud’. This tends to focus on employers who have provided inaccurate or false information, or who have then broken furlough rules – in the main by having furloughed staff continue to work. HMRC does allow organisations to ‘correct’ any over or underpayment. The period of time in which employers can correct any errors and amend claims under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme without incurring penalties has been extended to:
- 90 days after the day on which the Finance Act 2020 was passed (22nd July 2020); or
- 90 days after the day on which the income tax on the payment made becomes chargeable,
whichever is the later. The previous period was 30 days.
Councils should be advised to only provide accurate and true information when applying for furlough and to stick within the stated rules of the scheme. If they realise they have made any errors in their claims they should correct this as quickly as possible.
For councils that have successfully claimed under the furlough scheme:
HMRC also provide information on what you must do following a successful claim which includes the following information:
Once you’ve claimed, you’ll get a claim reference number. HMRC will then check that your claim is correct and pay the claim amount by BACs into your bank account within 6 working days.
You must keep a copy of all records for 6 years, including:
- the amount claimed and claim period for each employee
- the claim reference number for your records
- your calculations in case HMRC need more information about your claim
- for employees you flexibly furloughed, usual hours worked including any calculations that were required
- for employees you flexibly furloughed, actual hours worked
- tell your employees that you have made a claim and that they do not need to take any more action
- pay your employee their wages, if you have not already
- You must pay the full amount you are claiming for your employee’s wages to your employee.
You must also pay the associated employee tax and National Insurance contributions to HMRC, even if your company is in administration. If you’re not able to do that, you’ll need to repay the money back to HMRC. You must also pay to HMRC the employer National Insurance contributions on the full amount that you pay the employee. If you have submitted a claim for the employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions, then the full amount you claim in respect of these must be paid or you will need to repay the money back to HMRC.
Employers cannot enter into any transaction with the worker which reduces the wages below the amount claimed. This includes any administration charge, fees or other costs in connection with the employment. Where an employee had authorised their employer to make deductions from their salary, these deductions can continue while the employee is furloughed provided that these deductions are not administration charges, fees or other costs in connection with the employment.