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Virtual meeting advice

0 votes
Some local PC's have been advised by the local NALC office to not publish with notice of meeting the link to the online meeting (Zoom or other) and that any member of the public wishing to attend must contact the Clerk to be given the details personally. Apparently this is to avoid "Zoom Bombing" which is people joining meetings to disrupt the meeting . The question is: is this allowed as meetings must be open to the public and any disruption at the meeting ( virtual or other) is firmly in the jurisdiction of the chair to control and remove the perpetrator. Is this not pre-selecting who can and cannot attend online against the law?
asked by (11.1k points)

2 Answers

0 votes
Zoom bombing is a serious issue. Whilst it is true that the host of the meeting (usually the clerk rather than the chair) may remove somebody, this takes time and the damage is done long before the culprit disappears. Asking people to contact the clerk for details doesn't prevent access, as long as the clerk offers the same information to everybody. Most of the people who have contacted me were new to Zoom and needed guidance from me in order to be able to participate.
answered by (33.4k points)
There is a difference between members of the public seeking advice and having to register and give their details for what should be a public meeting and open to all. This is the basis for the question posed. Does the PC have the power to make such conditions on attendance regardless of whatever problems they experience and in many cases MAY experience?
Any problems surely need to be addressed without compromising in any way the right to attend of the public?
I was under the impression that the Chair of a meeting was the person who decided whether to remove someone, not the Clerk. Clerks are 'hosts' as a technicality, they are usually the one that sets up the meeting and sends out the invites so need a 'hosting' account. But the meeting is actually run by the Chair, or should be!
Indeed Jann, but therein lies the problem. If we're following standing orders, it is up to the chair to determine whether or not somebody's behaviour is unacceptable. If it is, the chair should invite the offender to modify his or her behaviour. If there is no change, the chair, or any other member, may propose a motion to exclude the miscreant. This motion requires a seconder. If seconded, the motion must be put to a vote and the outcome recorded in the usual way. If members have voted to exclude the bomber, the chair should then instruct the clerk to zap them.

Alternatively, just adopt the Jackie Weaver method!
My opinion on the "Jackie Weaver" method is that this is probably a motivation for those zoom bombing to get themselves onto social media. It is a shame that other than sensationalising based on very little knowledge of PC procedures and no consideration of whether the chair was correct in his statement that the stand in "Mrs Weaver  had no authority" at the meeting to make such comments. As per usual in todays climate of hysteria on tap ,facts seem to be well down the list of considerations of matters. Also Mrs Weaver, by taking part in the media circus that ensued showed in my opinion no professionalism or integrity whatsoever and certainly not expected of someone who was presumably retained by the council for a specific task.
Mentorman, the simple answer to your PC powers question is no. The emergency powers do not allow councils to decide who may, or may not, participate in their meetings. However, the legislation fails to address this point in sufficient detail to clarify whether the agenda must include login details or whether it is acceptable for the agenda to inform members of the public regarding a further process to ascertain this information.

The NALC's view is clear (L01-20):
"In NALC’s view the effect of the amendment is that it is not enough to give notice of a remote meeting and invite the press and public to make a request for the access information (e.g. the Zoom link). This information must be provided with the public notice when that notice is given."
Thanks Dave you have confirmed my own thoughts on the matter. It is a little concerning that this particular local office has apparently given out instructions to several clerks in parishes they serve which flies in the face of what you have stated as NALC's view and advice. Herein lies confusion for those who accept information blindly without double checking.
Perhaps the solution is for PC's to publish the zoom links but to also publish on their website and agendas of the meeting it has the same expectations for appearance and conduct as a normal Parish Council meeting. Control over outside maters(kids and pets) must be observed pending removal from the online meeting.
0 votes
Registering for zoom meeting is the best way as the clerk sees a list of participants.

Zoom bombers are quickly identified and email addresses passed through the network
Registering though zoom is automated so no one is picking and choosing who can attend unless they are identified as a zoom bomber
answered by (5.5k points)
This is not something I'm familiar with. How does it help?
When people register they have to give their email address - just before the meeting you are able to go on and check none of the attendees are known offenders. It also puts those off who don't want their email addresses recorded. It also only allows one "log in" per email address.
We have rejected a couple of email addresses that have appeared on several pc / church meetings and they have had a zoom bombing during their meeting.
Hope this helps.
This is where I see a conflict in the council's requirement to hold a meeting open to the public and press and what appears to be a requirement for members of the public to essentially register with the council to attend ( and give their details to the council) on a basis that they may have done something somewhere before. This cannot be used to " ban" them from a meeting. A person can only be banned for something they HAVE done not what they might do surely? My point is that I don't  think council have the power to decide who attends their meetings.
We only ban those who have a history of bombing meetings

If you have a known offender to show inappropriate images surely you have a duty to protect  your community
It takes about 2 minutes to create a new email address. I have a couple of dozen of them already!
I appreciate that but when you have children in the background during zoom meetings I believe we should take all the precautions we can
I speak to them first, so I know who they are and why they want to come to the meeting. If they claim to be a resident, I can check that on the Electoral Roll. I can also provide them with additional documentation if they are interested in a particular agenda item. Surely that's more secure than just judging them by their email address?
Parish Council meeting are public meetings and you don't have to live in the parish to attend
Indeed, but it's unusual for somebody who has neither residency nor a legitimate interest in the business under discussion (landowners, architects, developers etc) to want to attend a regular meeting of a small rural parish.

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