County Councils Network statement on virtual meetings

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2021 | 26 March 2021

Last night, the government announced that emergency legislation allowing for council meetings to be held remotely will not be renewed.

This means that local authority meetings will have to be face-to-face from May 7.

Below, the County Councils Network responds.

Cllr David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network, said:

“The government’s decision to not extend emergency legislation allowing for virtual meetings to take place after May 7 is deeply disappointing considering the success of remote meetings, and it poses a number of challenges for county authorities.

“We have concerns over whether face-to-face council meetings can be done safely at this present time. Some council chambers will not have enough room to sufficiently distance officers, councillors, members of the public, and journalists and in order to do so, councils will need to look at other venues.  It also risks democratic participation at a time when interest in local matters is particularly high.

“The decision is illogical when you bear in mind the government’s own guidance stipulates that indoor events cannot be organised until May 17 at the earliest.

“My authority, Hertfordshire County Council, working with Lawyers in Local Government, and the Association of Democratic Services has made a legal application to the courts to declare that councils already have powers needed to hold remote meetings on the basis of contemporary interpretations of terms in the Local Government Act 1972. The County Councils Network and the Local Government Association will be supporting in these matters.”