The LGA is supporting a legal challenge to a decision not to extend emergency legislation on virtual council meetings, calling it “extremely disappointing”.
Councils have been able to hold ‘remote’ meetings since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – a flexibility that has led to an increase in public participation, and that has kept people safe.
However, from 7 May, that flexibility ends – even though the Government’s own roadmap out of lockdown states that indoor gatherings organised by businesses, charities, public bodies and similar organisations cannot take place until 17 May at the earliest.
Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman, said: “We urge the Government to reverse this decision and not force councils to have to hold COVID-19-secure face-to-face council meetings until all restrictions are lifted.
“With supporting staff, these could easily involve up to 200 people in one room, even before adding in members of the public and reporters.
“This is likely to be a significant challenge, with councils, for example, having to source larger venues to host meetings with social-distancing measures in place – such as full council meetings, which will need to be held following the May local elections.”
The LGA is supporting Lawyers in Local Government, the Association of Democratic Services Officers, and Hertfordshire County Council in an application to the courts to declare that councils already have the powers needed to hold online meetings.