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Annual Council Meeting - email decision making

+1 vote
Parish Council business - we have just been asked to 'consider and express a view' as to whether the Annual Council Meeting and potentially all other meetings be further postponed. The request has been made via e-mail and a response is expected via e-mail.
We have had one Extraordinary meeting via Zoom at the beginning of the lockdown and one Zoom 'catch up' non-formal meeting since. Delegated authority was given to the RFO at the Extraordinary meeting.

Is it the considered opinion that any decision made outside of a proper Council meeting, ie essentially voting by e-mail, is unlawful, or if not unlawful, effectively not a decision?

As the Zoom facility exists and has proved to work as a way of conducting business, do you think that matter of postponements be discussed and decided at a properly convened meeting? (This is the way forward which I am trying to explain to the others).

Thankyou
asked by (170 points)

1 Answer

+1 vote
Hi Newbie

The government has legislated that the annual parish council meeting that is held in May, when the Chair is elected, is not required this year and that the status quo is maintained until May 2021 (the chair is still the chair, members of committees are still the same).

The option for holding virtual meetings is just that, optional and it is down to individual parish and town councils to decide if they want to go down this route or maintain a system of delegated powers, email approval etc.  Some councils might suffer from appalling Wi-Fi or councillors not having laptops or smart phones - it does happen.

Both NALC and SLCC advised Clerks (before the virtual meeting legislation came in) that as long as decisions that are made have a complete audit trail / evidence that councillors were consulted, then there is very little likelihood of a legal challenge happening and if it did, that it would be upheld by the courts.  There was also the advice given to hold back on major decision making where possible.

Now that the option for virtual meetings can happen, I would suggest that it is an ideal to hold council meetings online and to be as transparent as possible.  I would also suggest that if there was a major decision to be made, then it should be during a virtual meeting.  However, there is no legal requirement that states that councils MUST hold virtual meetings.

Hope the above helps
answered by (9.4k points)
Thank you for your answer. I have to disagree with you though. It is up to each authority to decide if they hold it or not. The legislation states that 'Local authorities can decide not to hold the legally prescribed annual meeting' and furthermore 'where a local authority does not hold an annual meeting, current appointments will continue until the next annual meeting of the authority or when the local authority determines'. So an authority could postpone it for 1 month, 2 months or anytime.
The main thrust of my question was aimed at if it is felt that a properly convened meeting should be held to make these decisions, particularly as it has been proved that a virtual meeting has already been held and proved successful.
And I agree with your main thrust.  It would make sense that if a zoom meeting worked well in the past that there is very little reason to take what could be considered a retrograde step by not holding them in the future.  That is certainly the view that I hold with regards to my parish council.
Thankyou. It seems sensible to me too.
Annual Parish Meetings - ok to postpone?
Thanks for the answers to Annual Town/Parish Council meetings. Our own Council has called a meeting for next Wednesday on just those lines. However virtual meetings are fine if everyone has good working equipment. One reason for the ruling that Councillors must be physically at a meeting was to ensure decisions were made and without undue influence from non-elected members of the public or political parties. The first paragraph from MrsAbster would seem the most appropriate until a more formal ruling (maybe Standards in Public Life) has been made. It has never been the responsibility of an elected Councillor to have workable computing or other electronic facilities.

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