Government Business 28.02

Government Business 28.02

Remote council meetings to be abandoned

Local authority meetings will have to be face-to-face from 7 May, under new guidance from the MHCLG.

For the most part, the government is being very cautious in its roadmap out of lockdown. Although outdoor sports facilities are now open, entertainment, tourist and non-essential retail all remain closed until at least 12 April. Meetings of groups of more than six is unlikely before 17 May, and even then it is expected to remain capped at six indoors and no more than 30 outdoors.

It is quite surprising then that the government has said that emergency legislation regarding virtual council meetings will not be extended beyond 7 May - earlier than the 17 May date mentioned above. It is also earlier than the 21 June date that MPs can continue participating remotely until.

Although guidance has been updated to help them operate safely and securely, including using existing powers to reduce the number of face-to-face meetings deemed necessary, it is not surprising that many local government bodies, including the Local Government Association and the County Councils Network, have labelled the move disappointing.

There are question marks over whether council chambers will have enough room to sufficiently distance all those present, raising the possibility of having to hire larger premises.

As the CCN’s David Williams said, the decision is ‘illogical’ at best.

Michael Lyons, editor

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