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0 votes

What do you think the impact would be if remote meeting provision was not extended beyond May 2021 for Councils?

Its been recently suggested that there is a hesitation/reluctance to extend the provisions beyond May 2021.  What impact do you think that decision would have locally? Without some form of hybrid arrangement (at very least) I am concerned about the following things:

  • People attending face-face meetings feeling under the weather (potentially with COVID-19)
  • Serious question mark whether any venue available is actually Covid-Secure given the potential numbers (and inability to forecast numbers as varies) 
  • Retention of elected members (Will those who are vulnerable or working with vulnerable people simply feel they have to step down).  
  • Seems a huge responsibility to ensure meeting is Covid-Secure to place on staff.  
  • Loss of momentum locally as was increasingly pleased how the remote meetings were going.  

Welcome thoughts

by (9.1k points)

6 Answers

0 votes
It depends entirely on what restrictions are still in place. Anything more severe than Tier 1 restrictions would make physical quorate meetings illegal. Before we get there are are lots of scheduled elections, some of which will be for Parish and Town coumcillors.  We could see a big uptake in postal votes if they do go ahead.
by (35.5k points)
0 votes
I think it's pretty safe to say that the government is not going to risk extending the covid pandemic by allowing councils to meet face to face a moment before it has to.

I've not heard any argument against the virtual meetings but I can see that there could be accessibility issues for some people.

My experience has been that our parishioners are just as uninterested no matter what format the meetings take.
by (2.1k points)
Hope your right.  Following dialogue with my local MP he not minded to support extending provision beyond May.  Seems to think country will be back to near normal and would be an appropriate time to return to in person meetings (both Parliament & all tiers of local government)
+1 vote
I can’t see how hybrid meetings would work

I think face to face meetings are far better but l don’t think the conditions will be in place until at the earliest late Summer

It should be left to each Parish Council to decide
by (11.7k points)
Agreed though obviously currently ball is in Governments court as legislation enabling remote meetings has sunset clause of May 2021.   The flexibility to choose would be ideal.  Personally want to see remote meetings till late Summer.  Then some meetings remote (certain sub committees are perfectly suited to it actually far better than when in person now).
I nearly mentioned this in my last reply but Hanford  Councils Zoom meeting has gone viral on YouTube it’s the distillation of everything that’s wrong with first tier Councils and there’s not a single one of the participants that come out looking good
Jules - I can't agree with your constant negativity I'm afraid. The Handforth thing is a distillation of what's wrong with some - a limited number in my experience. You seem to have a very poor impression of PCs and clearly have bad experiences.
Most councils try to do the right thing - and some are made up of people like those seen because most people can't be bothered (or can't afford to, don't have time etc) but just snipe from the sidelines. There'll be good and bad, same as there are in any area of life.  My council for example has councillors who do a huge amount for the community - currently they're spending literally days dealing with large planning applications for one thing. They don't even take their allowances. Is their effort appreciated? By some, but not many.
Jules- For me Hanford Parish Councils recent now seemingly viral (2 million views, various newspapers covering it, television & radio outlets and absolute avalanche of social media posts) should actually make the case for remote meetings.  Frankly that entire scene would never likely have been captured and the wider public simply would not be aware of the issues.  Lets turn a spotlight on the good & the frighteningly bad within our sector.
I accept based on my personal experience I am critical but I’ve always offered solutions
I’ve said on many occasions that there are good Parish Councils and that in the right hands they are a power for good if I didn’t feel that I wouldn’t keep trying
To me is apathy is the main problem, we have 42 Parish / Town Council Wards in our Borough
Yet in the 2019 elections only 8 wards were contested and apart from single Ward Parishes the only multiple ward Council that had elections in all Wards is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of performance
One Council with 20 seats recently only got 7 councillors to attend their Budget meeting they have 4 wards and have had one election in one Ward in 30 years
Maybe it’s time for a radical rethink about the first tier of local government
+3 votes
We've pushed this back to our ward councillors to raise as well as local associations - I'm not sure I'm willing to go into a meeting room in May, let alone my councillors who are mostly older and retired.

And you're right about the burden on staff - many Clerks are probably sole employees, are part time and the extra responsibility and time is not factored in.

Having said that we have had less community interaction than normal in the remote meetings - not helped by the village having dreadful broadband provision which is just about being improved.
by (660 points)
+1 vote
It would prevent us from watching the unfolding drama at Handforth Parish Council!
by (54.1k points)
I had to smile when it was pointed out to the interim clerk at Handford that she had no authority to throw the chair out - it reminded me of an episode of Steptoe & Son when Harold and Albert fell out and built a partition wall to split their living room with each of them being able to see just half the telly screen each.  Rules were that they would take turns to decide what to watch on alternate nights.  All went well until Harold wanted to watch the opera and Albert didn't and switched the telly over.   Harold complained that it was his night to choose and he therefore had the balance of law on his side.......Albert replied - Ah yes, but I've got the knobs on mine......
Hosting a Zoom meeting is a bit like playing a video game. If somebody says something you don't like, you just zap them! I'm trying to work out a way to retain that facility when we revert to face-to-face meetings. Is a taser too invasive?!
0 votes
From my point of view, I can't wait to get back to face-to-face meetings. Zoom just hasn't worked for my councils. Ten months of bad internet connections, decidedly poor behaviour and the total loss of all public participation have been a nightmare for me. Chasing signatures is a pain, as is having to make special journeys to my parishes for petty matters I would normally attend to on the day of a meeting.

Having said all that, if they allow us to continue to use Zoom for committee meetings, we would. In small villages, we have very few planning applications, so when Mrs Biggins at No 42 Acacia Gardens wants to add a modest single-storey extension, it takes us less than five minutes to come to a view on it. We don't need to open the Village Hall and summon five members and a clerk for that.
by (54.1k points)

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