Councils Virtually Certain To Continue Meeting Virtually?

If you missed the viral acceleration of the Handforth Parish Council

last week you’re probably in the minority. It’s been picked up by all the main news outlets including the BBC and Independent with Sky News headlining it “Foul-tempered (and occasionally sweary) parish council meeting becomes internet hit”.

Much more interesting than life “Down at the Old Cock & Bull” Aughton!

Lawyers in Local Government

declares “Council meetings can occasionally, as borne out in Handforth, become rather tense. I am quite sure you have all experienced difficult moments, but until the virtual provisions came into effect last year, those moments of self-control (or rather lack of it) rarely found their way out of the council chamber in quite so graphic detail. But virtual meetings have now brought an added dimension to local authority decision making.

“They have opened the world of local governance to the public conscious with far greater impact than ever before. Indeed, we know that public participation in council meetings has increased substantively. No longer is interest constrained to the planning development proposed at the end of the street. Scrutiny committees are now being streamed into homes and watched!

“We also know that behaviour at meetings has generally improved, which has a direct impact upon the quality and robustness of decision making. All in all, in pursuit of transparency and good governance, virtual meetings have provided some huge wins. It is even more concerning therefore, that the current provisions in regard to virtual meetings are due to end in 3 months’ time. LLG have been previously explicit in our desire to retain virtual meetings with local choice.

“Indeed, we have sought counsel’s opinion, alongside ADSO, on the options available both for local authorities and the Secretary of State. We will update on that position shortly, but as our CEO, Deborah Evans puts it “Virtual meetings are not just a stop gap, they are a new, efficient, and economical way of working for the public sector that will be a permanent part of the business landscape. Why should councils be denied the flexibility to choose the most appropriate platform for their decision making?”

The public might say “What efficient and economical benefits will show through lower council tax for these flexibilities?”

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