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Live -v- Zoom apparent double standards

+1 vote
Our local ALC advises that we shouldn't presently return to live meetings, this in response to the new groups of 6 rule, but this surely refers to domestic/social gatherings where social distancing and mask wearing etc is likely to be relaxed and uncontrolled not to mention a disregard being fueled by merriment and perhaps alcohol.

I totally agree that returning to full live meetings might not necessarily be a good idea at present when on-line meetings are available to fill that gap and thereby ensure no risk but for some residents this also increases distancing from their council.

A neighbouring Parish Council challenged the ALC instruction as they had already returned to live meetings and rediscovered how much better they were able to connect with residents aslo proving they could conducting live meetings safely within the guidelines.We too would have liked to return to at least part Live meets ie. possible alternating between live and Zoom. We could quite easily accommodate the PC and, at a guess, 20 public spaced at two meters with plenty of ventilation etc.

The neighbouring PC have been told that if they insist it is their choice but if even just one member of public has to be turned away they MUST close the meeting, To me this seems like a double standard as using Zoom inherently denies access to many residents by default. ie Over the lock down 6 months or so I have made two socially distanced house visits to older residents who are not able to use Zoom for what ever reason and I know two other councillors have also made 3 or 4 visits between them.

If there is no safe alternative then so be it but when a safe alternative can be achieved surely public meetings have to be the in order if only to fairly accommodate those who can not use Zoom and are therefore denied access to monthly meetings.

What restrictions/difficulties are other councils facing re live meetings?
asked by (870 points)

1 Answer

+1 vote
The use of virtual meetings was brought in to allow its use as an alternative to the "public" meeting requirement on parish councils. It was never compulsory to use and a PC is free to continue holding public meetings. BUT.. parish councils have a legal obligation for the health and safety of those attending (councillors and public) and should carry out a full risk assessment and implement sufficient safeguards as identified or required by legislation to fully protect those attending. Your choice. Virtual meetings seem to be the simplest and safest solution accepted at the moment and I am sure that effective exclusion of members of the public who lack the technical ability ( though you can join by phone) to join is not something that can be blamed on a PC that chooses virtual meetings under government guidance.
answered by (4.7k points)
Thanks for your comment/thoughts.

We have an RA for our usual meeting venue in the Parish Rooms and that venue should really be more than adequate for about double the normal resident attendance with safe distancing etc. Although we are very fortunate to also have access to a very large Parish Hall and at the moment no RA has been carried out on that. Meetings in the Parish Hall would however alleviate any worries about having to turn people away due to an unexpected high number of residents attending but another RA on the Parish Hall would only be worth it for peace of mind if the 'must close the meeting if even one resident has to be refused entry' stipulation.  Is that a legal requirement even in these difficult times.

One option that had crossed our minds is resident attendance by pre booking which would allow us to at least plan ahead, but again not sure how that might be viewed as being acceptable or not.
Unfortunately the residents who lack the tech, be it equipment or knowledge, are quite often the ones who need more help with an issue than do younger people. We have had an older person phone in but checking with them afterwards their comment was one of confusion on their part in trying to keep up with, what was to them, a tangle of disembodied unknown voices. I wasn't really concerned about blame but more with the best and fair way to connect with all residents.

Thanks for your thoughts, I think considering all it might be better to still go with Zoom for October and by then we should know if the present interaction rules are stable or otherwise. Then, if still practical, look at another RA for the Parish Hall if necessary. But one person is never a Parish Council so it will of course need to be discussed and agreed.

Thanks again
James
You could try meeting face to face and set up a zoom link for the public to attend as an alternative? Not ideal I know but...
I think our parish hall will only accommodate 10 or 12 people anyway, so the number of public will be severely limited in our case.
Thanks Caroline,

We had thought about that but when you think about it, it is likely to be a bit messy as every councillor and clerk would need a PC in front of them and then the Public attending would largely be excluded from any Zoom input and even if that would work somehow with maybe a large screen for the public to view and microphones for the people on Zoom to hear the public input at the meeting (also probably need more than one public mic.as well) you are then going to all that trouble just to accommodate people who could attend a live meeting anyway and possibly making 'double trouble' for meeting control with an added complication of somehow muting the public mics. if required. Zoom doesn't create the best of meeting environments at the best of times, so we abandoned that idea as the live meetings are primarilly to accommodate those who can't use Zoom and not the other way around.

Having said that our local ALC have today 'U' turned on their previous instructions; more or less now saying they were previously wrong and in accordance with Central Government guidelines the 'group of 6' rule does not apply to a controlled enviroment such as meetings conducted by councils in approved conditions. So an official RA for the Parish Hall has now been arranged and will be completed ASAP. Meantime we'll get the spacing markers, one way markers and Sanitising stations in place

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