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0 votes
Would it be allowable to restrict access to (say 2 or 3) members of the public when there are number restrictions in place on the meeting room which are said to be due to Covid?  It is a council owned meeting room.  I see from the previous question (from Eagle 21j that members of the public cannot legally be excluded entirely, but does it make it acceptable if just a handful of members of the public are allowed to attend the meeting?
by (940 points)
edited by

2 Answers

+1 vote
No, because you then would have to decide who was given priority to attend and what the criteria would be. You could issue the agenda and state on it  that the council would prefer members of the public not to attend to help reduce transmission of Covid. But until that happens in England it wouldn't be legal.
by (35.4k points)
Thank you. So as I now understand it, at the moment, if a council were to state in their policy document that only a certain number of members of the public are to be admitted according to their time of arrival, then that would be illegal, because the council would be deciding who was given priority to attend, and on what basis.
As usual, Government advice on this is inconsistent but I agree that the basic provision is that members of the public must have access to council meetings and currently there is guidance that anything taking place in a "community centre" must require the wearing of masks.  This is, of course, open to interpretation but one comment made earlier in the year was that in any event health and safety considerations take priority so if (and this is open to interpretation) the risk assessment suggests that allowing 100 members of the public to crowd into your meeting would represent too high a risk to those attending, I believe you can legitimately state that numbers attending might be limited because of the size of the room.  We have this statement on the agenda for my council but have never had it tested (legally or in practice).  In an ideal world, I guess, you would live stream your meetings which fulfils the objective of allowing public observation of the meeting but lets be honest, how many small parish councils have access to wifi in their rooms and/or the equipment, staffing and expertise to do this?
Thanks again.  Could I ask what your statement is on the agenda? (Doesn’t have to be verbatim, just the gist).  There is no WiFi, nor likely to be.
It would depend on whether or not they made the meeting available to view either by streaming or retrospectively. Something like "Although members of the public and media have the right to attend all council meetings, Littleville Parish Council wish to play their part in minimising the spread of Covid 19. Accordingly, at the current time we strongly  urge  members of the public and the media to refrain from attending this meeting. The meeting can be viewed via (add a link to streaming or video repository site)
There's a statement that says that anyone attending is asked to take a lateral flow test before attending and not to attend if the result is positive and it then goes on to say that entry to the meeting room may be restricted once maximum numbers have been reached.  I don't think there's a legal basis for this but it's asking people to be responsible and trying to keep people safe
Thank you for your reply (sorry, I only just saw it),
0 votes
Let’s face it this could happen at anytime if a contentious local issue crops up and the venue can’t cope with the number of people that turn up

But you’d hope that Councillors would have their finger on the pulse realise in advance and make contingency arrangements
by (11.6k points)
I am afraid that some councillors / clerk may be pleased to have a reason for restricting members of the public from a meeting where contentious local issues may crop up.

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