Legal requirement for local authorities to hold public meetings in person temporarily removed
Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) has been handed new powers to hold public meetings virtually by using video or telephone conferencing technology from Saturday (4 April 2020).
The government has temporarily removed the legal requirement for local authorities to hold public meetings in person during the coronavirus pandemic. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said that this will enable councils to make transparent decisions on the delivery of services for residents during the crisis.
Meetings will remain accessible whilst ensuring that councillors, staff and the wider public are able to follow government advice by staying at home to stop the spread of coronavirus to protect the NHS and save lives.
Cllr James Jamieson, Local Government Association chairman and leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, said:
“Giving councils powers to hold meetings remotely is important to maintaining local democracy and allowing critical decisions to be made during this public health crisis. Councils need to respond quickly and make very many key decisions. They can now do so while remaining open, transparent and accessible to the public.”
The change applies to all local authorities in England. It covers all categories of public meetings including annual meetings, cabinet and committee meetings.
The requirement for public meetings to be made accessible to the public remains. It will be up to each local authority to decide how they conduct meetings, how voting procedures work and how to ensure that the public has access.
CBC has already completed the groundwork to hold its Executive Meeting remotely on Tuesday (7 April 2020). On Wednesday (1 April 2020) the Chronicle asked CBC how the media could attend this meeting. We had not received a reply at the time of press.