Down At The Old Cock & Bull

From The Aughton Residents Group 2012

Aughton Parish Council.

“Since the formation of our Group we have maintained a rapport with, and usually a presence, in the public area at the APC monthly meetings in the Aughton Village Hall (usually 1st Monday of each month).

“In general, together with discussion on and responsibility for other Local Issues, APC are ‘consultees’ regarding Aughton  planning matters and their agendas include a list of planning applications which they may or may not choose to make comment on and submit back to WLBC.

“Due to Covid restrictions, APC have been having Zoom meetings and their 1st ‘face to face’ meeting took place last night, Monday 17 May 2021 when their published on line Agenda denoted it as their ‘ Annual Meeting ‘ (When a new Chairman and Deputy Chairman are appointed together with various other representative positions). 

“Myself and another ARG Committee member were the only members of the public seeking admission to this meeting and were at first refused permission as their Agenda did not include the usual ‘public question time’. We spoke to their Clerk and the Chairman and pointed out that their Agenda did not make it clear that the public were to be excluded from the meeting. After some deliberations we were admitted into the socially distanced meeting as was a member of the Local press after he also pressed the point regarding admission.

“The new APC Chairman (re-elected) is Graham Jones, and the new Vice Chairman is John Waugh,

“I was afforded the opportunity to make any comments I wished and I said I was disappointed that none of the WLBC Aughton Ward Councillors were present at this meeting. I was advised that none had been officially invited (albeit it was a public meeting) but APC would extend invitations to future meetings when they return to a more usual format.

“They also said they would invite Andrew Snowden the newly elected Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner to a future meeting. There were many other items on their agenda. On leaving, I thanked the Chairman and Clerk for allowing us access”. 

Colin Atkinson ARG 2012

For those legally inclined “(28 April 2021) the High Court dismissed a claim by the Association of Democratic Service Officers (ADSO), Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) and Hertfordshire County Council for a declaration that the current legislative provisions already permitted remote meetings, which would have allowed for the continuation of local authority remote hearings beyond 7 May 2021.

The Court concluded that the Secretary of State was correct in the ‘Connecting Town Halls consultation in November 2016 and subsequent response in July 2019 to say that primary legislation would be required to allow local authority “meetings” under the Local Government Act 1972 and the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 to take place remotely.

The Court stated that once the Flexibility Regulations cease to apply: such meetings must take place at a single, specified geographical location; attending a meeting at such a location means physically going to it; and being “present” at such a meeting involves physical presence at that location”.

Local authorities should now prepare for the end of virtual council meetings on 7 May 2021.

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