How will our local services and democracy be delivered while coronavirus rages?
Probably by remote attendance by members’ at Council meetings?
“Regulations http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/392/contents/made in relation to the holding of remote meetings were published yesterday (3rd April). The regulations come in effect from tomorrow (Saturday 4 April) and are in force until 7 May 2021. The regulations cover all categories of Council meetings including council, cabinet and committee meetings.
“Further government/sector guidance regarding remote meetings is expected shortly.In the meantime officers are working closely with BTLS (BT Lancashire Services which runs Remote Access to Corporate Desktop (RACD) Service), colleagues to look at what is technically feasible to enable members to participate remotely in Council meetings (e.g. through a video/telephone conference – possibly using Skype/phone calls) and how members can be supported to ensure they feel confident in using the technology.
“Officers will provide a further update shortly once BTLS have identified a preferred technical solution that meets the requirements of the regulations”.
April Planning Committee Meeting
“The next scheduled Council meeting is Planning Committee, which is due to be held on Thursday 23 April. It is, of course, highly likely that the Government restrictions on movement will remain in force at the time of this meeting and so, as noted above, officers are looking at ways that this meeting can be run as a purely remote meeting, with all members and officers (and any public speakers) participating remotely. Officers are also looking at ways to “broadcast” proceedings so that members of the public who are not participating directly in the meeting can still listen/watch remotely.
“There are a number of issues to work through and officers and members will need to feel confident in the use of the identified technology, possibly trialling the technology by way of a “test” fictional meeting. Issues such as voting and members’ interests (which might ordinarily require a member to leave a physical meeting during discussion of an item) will need careful thought.
“Consequently, the date of this meeting will be kept under review, and appropriate notice given, if it is necessary to push back the date of this meeting whilst any remaining issues are resolved. A further update will follow shortly.
Other Scheduled Meetings
“At February Council the schedule of meetings for the municipal year 20/21 were agreed. As the coronavirus outbreak unfolds thought can be given as to whether the Council is able to return to traditional meetings for the remainder of the municipal year or utilises remote meetings.
Changes to the Council Procedure Rules
“It is likely that minor changes will be needed to the Council Procedure Rules to facilitate remote meetings and officers are considering any necessary changes.
Attendance and disqualification – 6 month rule
“The regulations provide that ‘attendance’ at meetings includes remote attendance so members will be considered “in attendance” if they participate remotely in a meeting by way of video/telephone conference. This will highlight the disgraceful situation in Aughton & Downholland of one now inactive member living and working in London, not having honourably resigned, receiving £4,840 annually of taxpayers’ money.
Public admission and access to local authority meetings
“The regulations enable such access to be available through remote means. As noted above officers are looking at the ways to “broadcast” proceedings so the public can listen/watch”.