Reality-Free Civil Servants


It struck me that you might want to open your village hall or community centre, so I thought I’d guide you through the new rules which can be found here.

First there is a series of warnings:

  • Many community facilities are also workplaces and those responsible for the premises should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers. The government is clear that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe workplace.
  • Organisations also have a duty of care to volunteers to ensure as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety and are afforded the same level of protection as employees and the self-employed. [As an aside that came as a surprise to me, I didn’t realise the self-employed were entitled to any level of protection. Heigh-ho, live and learn.]
  • You should also consider the security implications of any changes you intend to make as a result of COVID -19. [Whose security? National Security, are we worried about terrorist threats here? Or just make sure the building is locked properly overnight?]

After telling us to be aware of “2 metres distancing (or 1 metre with risk mitigation)” we get to the nitty-gritty.

“From 4 July, users of community facilities should limit their social interactions to 2 households (including support bubbles) in any location; or, if outdoors, potentially up to 6 people from different households. It will be against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place.”

 So whilst you can have up to thirty people in your village hall, this is only possible if they come from no more than two households (plus their support bubbles. Between ourselves are bubbles all that structural? I for one wouldn’t want to be supported by one.)

Actually the ‘support bubble’ is “if you live by yourself or are a single parent with dependent children”. So each support bubble can add one adult and an unknown number of children.

Then you get to this bit:

“However, premises or locations which are COVID-19 secure will be able to hold more than 30 people, subject to their own capacity limits, although any individual groups should not interact with anyone outside of the group they are attending the venue with – so in a group no larger than 2 households or 6 people if outdoors.”

As far as I can make out, if your village hall has a several meeting rooms which don’t force people to mix with other groups, you can have people in these meeting rooms and as long as each group is no more than thirty strong you can have more than thirty in your village hall. But each room can only be used by people from two households (and one assumes support bubbles, but it doesn’t actually say.)

I will pass over the section on entrances, exits and queue management.

Then we get to your relationship with other ventures in the area.

 “The Individual businesses or venues should consider the cumulative impact of many venues re-opening in a small area. This means working with local authorities, neighbouring businesses and travel operators to assess this risk and applying additional mitigations. These could include:

  • Further lowering capacity – even if it is possible to safely seat a number of people inside a venue, it may not be safe for them all to travel or enter that venue.
  • Staggering entry times with other venues and taking steps to avoid queues building up in surrounding areas.
  • Arranging one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues.
  • Advising patrons to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue.”

So according to this the manager of the community centre will talk to the manager of the cemetery on one side and the school on the other and they’ll work together to fix their opening times and take control of the pavements outside marking lanes for people to walk. At the same time they’re making sure that they don’t all come on the same bus. (To be fair, with a village hall in a rural area, there won’t have been a bus since some time in the last century.)

Who wrote this?

What planet are they living on?

I realise that there isn’t time for a full consultation process on these documents, but please, could we just have a grown-up with some experience of the real world go through them with a thick red pen crossing out bits and annotating it?

Jim Webster farms at the bottom end of South Cumbria. Jim was encouraged to collect together into a book some blog posts he’d written because of their insight into Cumbrian farming and rural life (rain, sheep, quad-bikes and dogs) It’s available here.