Bedford Borough Council Cllr Jon Abbott Image Bedford Borough Liberal Democrats

Meeting followed other online meetings held the previous week

The Chair of Bedford Borough Council’s Planning Committee has thanked everyone involved for ‘making democracy happen in difficult circumstances’, after the committee’s first virtual meeting took place on Monday night (18 May 2020).

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the meeting was broadcast live on YouTube. It saw committee members, Council officers and members of the public take part online via video .

The committee’s first item of business in what was the first meeting of the new council year was to elect its Chair, with Liberal Democrat Cllr Jon Abbott re-elected to the role he held last year. He said:

“I want to thank everyone who helped make democracy happen last night in difficult circumstances. Clearly online meetings are not ideal, and we would all prefer to debate and decide matters in person. But it’s pleasing that last night’s meeting saw people able to follow the meeting live from home, and enabled public participation for and against applications.

“Everyone is learning as they go to some degree under the new arrangements and I am grateful to councillors and officers for their efforts, and in particular to members of the public for making sure we could hear and consider their views directly.”

The meeting, which ran from 18:30 until shortly before 22:00, saw the committee make determinations on a range of residential and commercial development applications, in accordance with new government regulations enabling virtual Council committee meetings.

Central Bedfordshire Council has yet to fully embrace remote meetings

So far Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) has held a closed Executive Zoom meeting (audio was supplied after the meeting) and a Traffic Management Committee Meeting.

Unlike Bedford Borough, it chose to cancel its Full Meeting instead of holding it online.

When asked if feedback from councillors or its IT Department had delayed CBC from holding more online meetings, a spokesperson said:

“Following a successful trial of a virtual meetings we are using this technology for our other decision-making meetings taking place next week and our next Executive meeting.

“We will continue to extend rolling out this approach to non-decision making meetings such as Overview and Scrutiny Committee meetings.”