Local councils are being faced with the enormous task of restoring normality in their community following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clerks especially are under increasing pressure to follow legislation whilst producing guidelines and risk assessments for the reopening of public spaces in their community. With it being such new territory, it can seem like a daunting task.
The team here at Scribe Accounts strive to support local councils in as many ways as possible therefore we have collaborated with BHIB Councils Insurance, a specialist insurance broker for Town and Parish Council’s.
BHIB Councils Insurance provide insurance services to thousands of councils across the UK and have kindly shared some documents on reopening after Covid, you can find these here
Director for BHIB Councils Insurance, Michelle South, said:
“We are delighted to partner with Scribe Accounts – a company with core values that are very much aligned to our own.
“The local council sector is becoming more pressured with further funding cuts, despite an increased demand from the community. Therefore, it is important that councils feel as supported as possible with affordable, comprehensive insurance options and access to a team of dedicated specialists.
“Our partnership with Scribe Accounts will ensure that our customers have access to an easy to use accounts package that understands them and their needs.”
Scribe’s Managing Director Tim O’Shea said:
“We are thrilled to announce our partnership with BHIB Insurers, a company that like us is happy to go the extra mile to support their clients and offers a bespoke, unique and experienced service to Town and Parish Councils.
“BHIB Insurance already work with a number of our customers, therefore it is a fantastic opportunity for us both to build new relationships whilst nurturing existing ones.”
About Scribe Accounts
Scribe Accounts offer purpose-built, easy to use accounts software for Town and Parish Councils.
With over 30 years’ experience of supporting and working with local councils, Scribe’s dedicated team includes a qualified accountant and comes with unlimited support for all users. Clerk’s and RFO’s save hours each month and have instant access to transparent, comprehensive reports on their most up-to-date financial position.
“The Internal Auditor will love you, your Councillors will love you, the VAT man will have no issues, you’ll be able to sleep at night!”
Francesca Pridding – Town Clerk, Tywyn Town Council
With almost 500 councils across England and Wales using Scribe daily. Benefits include:
Access to over 30 council specific reports
Annual Returns completed at a click of a button
Detailed bank reconciliation
Remote Read Only Access for Councillors/ Auditors
Cloud-based works on All Devices/Automatic Data back-up
HMRC Integration for Making Tax Digital
Wave goodbye to year-end stress and discover how Scribe will save you time and money by transforming your Council’s accounts. Book a demo here
About BHIB Councils Insurance
BHIB Councils Insurance is a specialist insurance broker for town and parish councils, brought to you by BHIB Insurance Brokers. They are the official Insurance partner to the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), providing training, information and guidance on emerging insurance related issues that affect councils and their communities.
BHIB Councils Insurance offer a comprehensive local councils package along with lots of complimentary products and services including:
Free Parish Online subscription if you sign up to a new three year deal
Access to toolkits, guides and checklists to assist with risk management
Exclusive risk management training and site visits carried out by their Risk Manager
Access to support with your council’s cybersecurity and becoming ‘Cyber Essentials-certified’
A dedicated service team and an in-house claims team
We would welcome the opportunity to conduct an independent review on your behalf. If you’d like to see if we can save you money on your upcoming insurance renewal, simply email [email protected] with your renewal date and best time to contact.
Our August newsletter is now available!! Including info about Scribe’s new features, the winner of our trust-pilot competition, a useful tool to help you complete PDF’s, a guide to reopening your community post-CV-19 AND a speedy lesson in raising sales invoices and credit notes…. PHEW!
Times are changing and for the foreseeable future conference events will not be able to run the way they used to. Fortunately there are a host of different options available to ensure your conference can still go ahead, virtually.
Shifting your conference online can be a daunting task but, it is much easier than you think. In our simple guide we have checkmarked all the points you need to cover in order for your event to be a success!
Decide when and where to host your conference
When scheduling your conference date it is important to allow yourself enough time to get everything organised. Below are a few things you will need to consider:
Allowing sufficient time for yourself and other hosts to become familiar with your conferencing tool.
What subjects are you going to talk about? Who will be your speakers and vendors? Will your conference have a theme?
Will you have a presenter at your conference to welcome attendees and introduce speakers? If so it is a good idea that this person is someone separate to the organiser to allow them to solely focus on presenting and providing the best experience to your attendees.
Who will attend your conference and how will they hear about it?
We would recommend allowing a minimum of 2 months between when you start planning your conference to the date of the event. It is best to plan and schedule as much as your conference as possible before creating your event online.
Software companies are moving and adapting quickly in order to be able to cater to the current market, we are going to show you one of our favourite conference tools.
Hopin is an all-in-one live online events platform allowing attendees to learn, interact and connect with people from anywhere in the world. It includes a main stage for your speakers, virtual booths for exhibitors, breakout capability for targeted sessions, alongside a networking option to allow your attendees to meet one another. You can choose which of the above you would like allowing you to personalise the event to your requirements.
How much does it cost?
Hopin costs $99 per month per organiser, this includes:
100 attendee registrations per month per organiser (50p per registration once your monthly allowance has been used up)
Full access to the Hopin event platform including networking, sessions, stage, expos, registration page, chat, analytics and more.
Up to 10,000 participants
Ticket can be claimed/purchased directly from Hopin saving potentially hours of administration work
You can then create an account by completing your details, alternatively, you can use an existing Facebook, Linkedin or Google account.
You can create your account free initially to get your conference set up, once you are ready to start promoting and for attendees to claim their tickets you can set up the payment under the ‘billing’ tab of ‘my account’.
Once you have created your account you can then begin building your event! To get started select ‘My Account’ which will take you to your Hopin dashboard. Firstly you need to add your organisation’s details, you can do so by selecting ‘New Organisation’ on the left hand menu. Here you can see I have added Scribe as my organisation.
Once you have added your organisation you are ready to get started creating your event!
Select ‘Create Event’ from your dashboard. Here you can name your event, set the start date and end date, also you can choose which type of event you would like to be available during your conference. Our conference is going to include a stage for our speakers and an expo to allow vendors to exhibit. We recommend keeping the event as ‘hidden’ as this will ensure that only the people you want to attend will be there!
Once your event is created it will take you to your dashboard. This is where the fun starts and we can get stuck into organising! On the left hand side are all the different menu options which we will be using to set up our event. You also view your registration page by clicking the button as shown in the screenshot, here is where you can also find the registration link to send to your attendees.
This is where you can view the scheduled event and edit the name, time, if needed. You can also change the currency of your conference (if you are charging for tickets).
This menu item is one of the most important features of Hopin. Here is where you can create your event tickets. First off select ‘create ticket’ you can then give your ticket a name, select whether they are free or at a charge, you can then add a description and allocate the amount of tickets available. Once you have created your tickets you can publish your event.
*Top-Tip* if you are charging for your tickets is to allocate the first 50 tickets at a discounted rate, this will incentivise your attendees to sign up quickly. To do this you would need to create two different sets of tickets, the first set of tickets at a cheaper price with a different name (for example: “Early Bird Tickets- Only 50 Available”) and a second set at the full price. Once the discounted tickets have been purchased it will show only the full price tickets available.
Whilst creating your event tickets it is a good idea to create a number of ‘hidden’ tickets which you can send to your event speakers, vendors and staff to be able to register for the event. Your hidden tickets will only be available to people with the unique link.
Once you have created your ticket it will show under the Ticket menu option. You have the option to embed your tickets onto your website if you wish which will allow attendees to sign up directly from your page.
Within this page we can customise our ticket registration page to make sure it is personalised to our conference. You can add an image such as your logo, you can also add a short description about what your attendees can expect to see and learn at your event. Once you have added a description and an image of your choice you can preview how the ticket screen looks by going back to ‘tickets’ and clicking ‘view tickets page’. Here is what my registration page will look like:
Within this menu option we can add a welcome message for when attendees first join our event. This is a great way to include a bit of background information about the conference and tips and tricks on how to Hopin to ensure they have the best experience.
Within the stage menu option you can see the link you and your speakers will need in order to speak and present at your conference. We will cover more of how speakers can present later on in this post.
Next up we are going to show you how to add vendors to your conference, if you head to ‘expo’ on the menu and select ‘add booth’.
Firstly we can fill in some information about our vendors including a description of what they do, a special offer for attendees of your conference, their logo and a background image of their choice along with social media and website details for attendees who wish to learn more.
You can ask your vendors how they wish to present their product, they can either add a link to a Youtube video and speak to attendees via the live chat, alternatively they can be live themselves and attendees can join with video and audio to chat. If your vendors would like to be live you will need to select ‘session’ when setting up their booth and select the moderator for the booth, they will then be able to control who can go live within their booth. (To add a moderator for a booth you will need to ensure the person is already registered for your event).
Within the setup you can also include their logo and a background image of their choice along with social media and website details for attendees who wish to learn more.
Attendees will be able to register their interest with your vendors directly through Hopin, you can either choose for attendees to be taken directly to their website, alternatively they can register interest and their email address will be sent directly to your vendor who can then send some more information to them.
Surely one of the most important parts of a conference is the speakers?
Hopin makes it really simple to add your speakers directly into the conference. Firstly speakers need to be registered for the event, they can do this on the ‘registration’ page of Hopin the same way your attendees register.
Once they are registered you can allocate them as speakers, to do so head to the ‘Speakers’ menu option and select ‘add speaker’ you can then simply type their name into the ‘select speaker’ box and you can also include a quick description in the ‘headline’ box.
You can add as many speakers as you wish, once they are added you can view all of these under the ‘speakers’ menu option. If you head back to ‘overview’ you can see the unique link which you will need to send to your speakers in order for them to access the backstage.
“Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves”
Both attendees, speakers and exhibitors will like to know what is happening when, this will ensure your event runs smoothly! Luckily Hopin has a built in schedule planner to ensure everything is perfectly organised.
*Top-tip* We recommend scheduling a 10 minute break between each presentation to give your attendees time to grab a drink etc and to also allow for any run-over of your presentations.
Once you have followed the above step and added your speakers you can then schedule the timings. To do so head to ‘schedule’ in the left hand menu, and then click “Add to Schedule”.
You can then give your item a name, choose the segment type (generally we always use stage), select the start time and end time and choose your speaker and then click ‘save segment’. This will then be added to your event schedule and show on the registration and event homepage.
If your event is being sponsored by other businesses you can add their details under the ‘sponsors’ page. You can see their logo and website and they will show up on your event home page.
Now that you have set up your event it is important to carefully check through your schedule, speakers, timings and make sure everything is correct. It is also a good idea to double check your registration page as this will show the event schedule, the available booths, the sponsors and the speakers. Here is what my registration page now looks like with the information added.
Once you are happy that everything has been set up correctly you can start promoting your event! If you have a database you could email all potential attendees with the registration link, you could also share via your social media pages. Spread the word about your conference and even share some snippets of what they could learn if they attend.
*Top-Tip* Ask your sponsors, vendors and speakers to share within their network too.
Attendees will receive an email reminder automatically from Hopin 24 hours and 1 hour before your event begins.
Test, test, test!
It is a good idea to have a test run with your speakers to ensure they are comfortable with how Hopin works, you can have a practice session a few days before your conference, this will minimise any delays on the day and make sure your attendees have the best experience possible!
On the day
So, the big day has arrived!
Your Hopin event will automatically open 5 minutes before the start time, attendees can join through the registration page link.
How to join backstage as the organiser and for your speakers.
First things first you need to join the backstage of your event, this is where your speakers will join and can speak to one another before going live in your event.
You can find the link to your backstage by logging in to your account and selecting ‘stage’ from the menu, you can then copy and paste the link in a different window.
*Top-Tip* We would recommend having two tabs open on the day, one as an attendee to your event, and the other for the backstage.
Once the page loads you will firstly need to allow ‘Share Audio and Video’. It will bring up a test screen and you can make sure everything is working as it should be. When you are ready you can simply press ‘Broadcast’ at the top right hand of the screen and you will live! You can use the backstage chat on the right-hand side to communicate with one another (don’t worry, your attendees won’t see this chat!)
You can control who visits the backstage from here and make sure the right speakers are on stage at the right time. All the speakers will need to do the same. We recommend your speakers joining backstage around 15-20 minutes before their presentation. When it’s their time to present they can do so by clicking ‘request to participate’.
Speakers can share their screen whilst broadcasting, once they have joined they can click the ‘screenshare’ button at the bottom of their video.
How to join the conference as a vendor
If your vendors are using Youtube on their booth they can simply login to the event as an attendee, go to their booth and speak to visitors using the live chat. If they are joining via session (live video) the moderator will need to go to ‘expo’ and click the blue ‘start session’ button. They will need to allow Hopin to use their camera and microphone and then press ‘join session’ to go live!
How attendees will see your conference
Attendees can navigate your conference by using the menu on the left hand side. They can also interact with vendors, speakers and other attendees by using the chat on the right hand side. Here you can also see the names of the people attending your event and you can see how many are watching live at the top right hand corner (next to the green button)
*Top-Tip* Vendors can use the live chat on the right hand side to invite members to their booth.
At the end of your event it will automatically finish at the set time. If you head to the ‘overview’ in your dashboard you can see some data on the number of people who attended and the pages they visited.
And that’s it, GOOD LUCK with your event, we hope this guide has been super helpful in getting your started with your next online conference, if you have any further questions don’t hesitate to drop me an email: [email protected]
How to Hold a Virtual Town or Parish Council Meeting
Following the Government’s latest guidelines, stay at home restrictions are still in place and the UK is being encouraged to work remotely as much as possible. Thankfully we live in a world where we can stay connected whilst also staying safe, however, it is also important to ensure that normal duties and obligations can continue as much as possible.
As of 4th April 2020 the Government has temporarily removed the requirement for local authorities to hold meetings in person, allowing instead for regular meetings to be held remotely. You can view the guidelines from the NALC here.
We know this is easier said than done and so we have written a guide with tips and tricks on how to get started with hosting your own online meetings with councillors and other members of staff alike.
It may be the first time that some or all of your attendees have been part of a video meeting therefore it is important to be patient and prepared to ensure the meeting runs as smoothly as possible. With just a few tweaks your online meeting will be able to run much the same as it would in person.
Choosing where to host your meeting
There are many different video platforms both free and paid for which can be used to host your meeting, within this guide we will be focusing on using Zoom. We’ve chosen Zoom as we believe it to be both user friendly and the most efficient for the purpose at hand. And because it’s what we’ve been using here at Scribe!
It’s worth watching the guide to get an idea of how you’ll create the account and initially get up and running with Zoom. The team here at Scribe have been using Zoom throughout the pandemic and have found it to be easy to use as it allows us to link up from home and chat each day much as we would normally do in the office.
Zoom also allows you to record your online meeting meaning that all discussions can be either made available for public viewing (if you don’t want members of the public present at the actual meeting) and it’s a great way to look back and record times/points of agreement or disagreement on decisions or votes made.
Scheduling your meeting
You can schedule the meeting directly from the Zoom app on your computer/device or by logging into your Zoom account (the above article covers how to create an account if you don’t already have one) on their website. Here you can give your meeting a name and schedule the start time and finish time, if you already have a scheduled date for your meetings then providing everyone can still make that date you don’t even need to disrupt your calendar or delay normal proceedings. You can also personalise the settings turning different features on and off; such as allowing participants to join with video (camera access) and/or audio (microphone access). If hosting the meeting you can even arrange to put your participants in a virtual waiting room prior to the meeting so that everybody joins at the same time. You’ll be notified of members’ arrival once they are loaded into the waiting room and they’ll only be allowed “in” the meeting room once you allow them.
Once your meeting is scheduled you can send a meeting invite to your councillors who will be your participants via email either from the scheduling screen or under ‘meetings’ within the Zoom dashboard. If your meeting is open to the public to attend you can include the invite link on your website and/or social media so that they too can join your meeting remotely from home. If you only wanted to have part of your meeting open to the public you could schedule a slightly later start time for them to join. Like the original participants (Councillors) they too would be held in a virtual meeting room until such time you permit them to join the online meeting and allow them in. It’s like a holding pen until you’re ready for them to join that particular part of the meeting which has been agreed to be shared/ broadcast to the public.
If you have any documents i.e reports which need to be shared with the participants/Councillors you can include these with your meeting invite, we find Google Docs a really good way to share these and it also allows multiple users to edit the same document at the same time. Of course you can always email these before a meeting too should you not want/require others to edit.
Practice makes perfect
It’s a great idea to hold a practice meeting ahead of your scheduled meeting. This will reduce the chances of your Council meeting being delayed and it will allow the meeting host (usually the Clerk) and the attendees to become familiar with the video platform and the different settings available.
Ahead of the meeting it’s a good idea to make a decision on the meeting etiquette and outline this clearly to all participants. As it’s likely to be new territory for people having a meeting in this way, plus a different way of voting on listed agenda matters; we recommend considering the below to ensure your meeting runs as smoothly as possible.
Participants must mute themselves when they are not speaking- this will prevent any background noises interfering with the meeting. (When participants are muted they can temporarily unmute themselves by holding the spacebar.)
When a participant would like to speak they indicate via the video function by say raising their hand or using the chat feature to say “I’d like to comment”, this will prevent people talking over one another.
Make a decision on how to vote on topics within the agenda, there are a number of ways this is possible.
Use the ‘chat’ feature of Zoom, members can state their vote and it will be documented for all to see
Perform a role-call of the members asking to state their vote
Allocate hand signals for ‘for’ and ‘against’ (thumbs up and thumbs down)
Create a Google Doc where all members can add their vote
(It is a good idea to confirm the votes back to the participants to ensure they have been noted correctly.)
If members of the public will be attending, discuss how they will be able to interact with the meeting. As the host you can control how participants can join. They can participate in the meeting with video and audio off and this is controlled by the host and can be turned on or off at different parts during the meeting. Alternatively the ‘chat’ feature can be used during the meeting or you can ask that questions are submitted in advance. If part of the meeting will involve discussing confidential information which members of the public should not be part of, we suggest either asking the public to leave the meeting whilst these are discussed, once they have left you can ‘lock’ the meeting under the participants tab. Alternatively you can host a second meeting exclusively for your council members.
Allocate a moderator for the meeting, the moderator’s role will be counting votes, taking minutes, and assisting the chair in controlling who is in the meeting and who is speaking. The Clerk is usually the moderator.
Starting your meeting
As the host we recommend joining the meeting 10-15 minutes early to allow yourself sufficient time to choose the correct settings etc before the other participants join. A few settings you may want to review are listed below :
Once the meeting window opens if you select ‘participants’ from the toolbar at the bottom of the screen, a new window opens. You should then choose ‘more’ at the bottom right. You can then tick or untick the settings you wish to apply to people being able to join with or without sound. If for example you didn’t want public participants to be able to actually speak but just observe, this could be prohibited by unticking “allow participants to unmute themselves”.
Record – Zoom provides the option to record your meeting. You can then refer back to the meeting if needed, alongside this if anybody is unable to attend the meeting they can watch the recording at a later date. You can choose for the meeting to be saved onto your Zoom account or directly onto your computer.
How to leave the meeting
Participants can leave the meeting at any point by selecting ‘leave meeting’ at the bottom right hand corner of the Zoom screen.
When the meeting has finished the host can end the meeting by selecting ‘End Meeting’. This would automatically end the meeting for all participants.
And that’s it! Hosting your online Council meeting is easier than you think and as mentioned above, practice makes perfect. It can be really daunting for people who are using this type of platform or software for the first time so having patience and using ours (or other) online guides to circulate with members ahead of time can help everyone to feel as prepared as they can be. These are unprecedented times and everyone is facing new and more diverse ways of working, hopefully it will help us to adapt and be more flexible with work in the future.
Psst… Have you heard about the Local Council Clerks’ Community group on Facebook for Clerk’s and RFO’s? With nearly 600 members and constantly growing it’s a great place for tricks, tips and support and all things Local Council! Come and join today here!
In these challenging times it’s important to stay connected as much as possible.
Here at Scribe we have been working on ways to keep our customers connected. Zoom is a fantastic way to stay in touch wherever you are in the world! We have put together a quick tutorial in how to use Zoom to ensure your Town or Parish Council can resume business as usual.
What is Zoom?
Zoom is a simple to use online video service which allows you to host meetings, webinars and conferences! It is available on most computers, smartphones and tablets therefore it is easily accessible too!
What can Zoom do?
Zoom allows you to host meetings, conferences, webinars and more using video or audio, it also allows you to share your screen, files and chat. You can host unlimited one-on-one meetings, or you can invite up to 100 participants to your meeting on their free plan, we will talk more about pricing later!
How do I get started?
Firstly, you need to go to zoom.us and click ‘sign up’ at the top right-hand corner to create your account, Zoom offers a few different options when signing up. You can create an account using your email address, alternatively you can sign in using your existing Facebook or Google account – if you have either of these it is a great way to sign up as your information and profile picture will be automatically added to Zoom.
Zoom offers two different control dashboards, you can either use the dashboard on their website or alternatively you can download the Zoom application onto your device. To do so head to resources at the top right-hand corner and select download Zoom, once the application has downloaded you are ready to go!
How to start your first video meeting
On your Zoom dashboard select ‘new meeting’ this will immediately take you to the video view, here you can toggle your camera and audio on or off, you can also add participants by clicking the ‘participants’ option and selecting ‘invite’.
How to schedule a meeting for a future date?
On your Zoom dashboard click ‘Schedule’ it will then open the schedule meeting settings, here you can give your meeting a name, you can choose the date, start time and end time. You can also password protect your meeting; participants will need to enter the password to be able to join your meeting. You can also add the meeting into your calendar and from this invite the other participants.
How to join a meeting as a participant?
To join a participant simply open Zoom and click ‘join’ here you can enter the meeting ID and password (if the meeting has a password) it will then take you to your meeting. You do not need a Zoom account in order to join a meeting and participants can join using the Zoom app or via the Zoom website.
How to end Zoom meeting
When you are ready to end your Zoom meeting head to ‘end meeting’ at the bottom right hand corner. You will then be given two options, you can either leave the meeting but the other participants can carry on, alternatively you can end the meeting for all.
How much does Zoom cost?
Zoom offers a fantastic free plan, if you sign up for the free plan you can host unlimited one-on-one meetings, you can also have up to 100 participants in the same meeting. The main restriction with this plan is your meetings with more than 2 people are restricted to 40 minutes. If you are looking to host meetings which will last longer than 40 minutes you will need to sign up to Zoom’s pro plan. The cost is £11.99 per month per user, once you have signed up to a pro plan you can host meetings up to 24 hours long!
You may have read that Zoom along with other platforms have reported security risks, however, Zoom has many security features which we have highlighted in this post to ensure your meetings are safe. So you’ll have to make a decision on which to use however internally here at Scribe we are happy using Zoom.