Managing the risks of public meetings

Despite COVID-19 restrictions still being in place and the virus starting to spread again, the Government now requires us to stop virtual meetings and return to public ones.

So, all of us who serve in local authorities and all our staff who so staunchly help us run our councils have to take a risk that no other branch of government is asked to – to meet in person and in public. 

If we don’t, then the services we supply will grind to a halt and the people we were elected to serve will pay the price.

Thanks to everyone’s hard work and with fantastic support from the people of Bassetlaw, we have one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the region. But we know coronavirus is still a threat, and we have a duty to our electorate to maintain these low levels. 

The first test for us was our AGM, on 19 May. We committed to making it the most covid-free meeting possible and asked a specialist testing company, Event Testing Ltd, to help us. 

We decided all our councillors and staff would test for the virus within 24 hours of the AGM and access to the meeting would be dependent on proof of a negative test. 

There were some teething problems, especially among members without smartphones and a few of our veterans who struggled with the technology. But by adapting our council iPads and providing good technical help, both our councillors and staff attended with proven negative covid tests on the night.

In addition, we were determined to make the council chamber as covid-safe as possible, and installed an ‘eco chamber’ – a sanitising airport style chamber – to ensure no external contamination was carried into the town hall.

I am convinced that while COVID-19 and all its mutations remains a threat to us all, we have to take whatever precautions necessary to ensure when our council meets in public it does so safely for the sake of the community we serve, our staff and our councillors.

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