The UK government has relaxed rules that restricted local authorities from conducting meetings remotely over video or telephone conferencing technology.
Under UK law there is a legal requirement that all local authorities must hold their public meetings in person. However this requirement has obviously clashed with the government advise that if possible business and meetings should be conducted remotely to avoid any spread of COVID-19.
Beginning on Saturday fourth of April local authorities no longer are required to meet in person and can make uses of teleconferencing technology.
Local Government Association Chairman Cllr James Jamieson commented that: “Giving councils powers to hold meetings remotely is important to maintaining local democracy and allowing critical decisions to be made during this public health crisis. Councils need to respond quickly and make very many key decisions. They can now do so while remaining open, transparent and accessible to the public. Remote council meetings will crucially help ensure all those taking part stay at home, helping to prevent the coronavirus from spreading and save lives”
Public Meetings Remotely
The public meetings held by local councils still need to be accessible by the public, but they will no longer put councillors, local government staff and the public at risk by requiring them to meet face to face.
The change will affect all public meetings including cabinet and committee, as well as council annual meetings.
It will be up to each authority to decide the best way to conduct business and how exactly voting procedures will operate. Importantly they must figure out a way to ensure that the public has access to these meetings.
Local Government Secretary Hon Robert Jenrick MP commented that: “It’s critical that they continue to provide essential services and find innovative ways to maintain important economic functions they perform like the planning system and they will now be able to do so.”