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+3 votes

It appears that Her Majesty's Government is too busy to consider extending the provisions for virtual meetings.

by (53.3k points)

5 Answers

+3 votes
I find this news extremely concerning. We had already brought our Annual Parish Council meeting forward to the end of April in order to cover this before the temporary legislation expired. However the idea of having to meet face to face from the end of May is, to me, an unacceptable risk.
The letter, that Dave has kindly shared above, refers to ‘Council buildings’. As a tiny Parish Council we don’t have any of our own buildings or meeting rooms. We had previously met in a small community room within an elderly care complex. The room would not be large enough even for the Members of the Parish Council to be socially distanced, not even considering members of the public.
It also refers to the Roadmap permitting up to 1000 people to come together for inside performances within the Roadmap provisions. There would be personal choice in this. Many of us will not for a long time choose to go back to anything hat involves large numbers of people in an indoor location. My own personal decisions won’t even include going in a supermarket - therefore the idea that I would be forced into an activity that I would not be comfortable to do, just to conduct Parish Council business, seems unreasonable.
The letter also seems to suggest we should still make remote access to meetings for some an option. There is a big difference each of us being at home on Zoom, rather than setting up a public meeting in a location with facilities for remote access and display of others attending from a distance. Again another example of the Government not demonstrating any understanding of how our sector works.
by (430 points)
The Annual Parish Council meeting situation is somewhat confusing. The temporary legislation states:

"Where an appointment would otherwise be made or require to be made at an annual meeting of a local authority, such appointment continues until the next annual meeting of the authority or until such time as that authority may determine." So the requirement to hold an APM last May was suspended, but councils were given the option to hold one, either in May, or at a later date of their choosing, up to 6 May 2021 ("before 7th May 2021" in the legislation)

Schedule 12 Part II para 7(2) of LGA 1972 states:

"In a year which is a year of ordinary elections of parish councillors, the annual meeting of a parish council shall be held on, or within fourteen days after, the day on which the councillors elected at that election take office, and in any other year the annual meeting shall be held on such day in May as the parish council may determine."

So the temporary legislation permits an APM in April for a council that has not held one since 1 May 2020, but for those councils that held their APM virtually last year, it appears that this year's meeting must take place during the month of May, either virtually on 4, 5 or 6 (election day) or face-to-face after 17 May, assuming the date of Step 3 isn't delayed by Covid stats between now and then.

I'm not sure what we do if Step 3 is pushed back.
The remote public access situation is laughable. Socially distanced, but with everybody able to see and be seen, needs an impressive array of tech. One of my councils meets in a Community Centre that has no wifi. For those that have wifi, the specification was based upon only a couple of people using it at any given time.

The only one of my councils that has its own premises is based in a portacabin with a socially-distanced capacity of six (and no wifi). Twelve councillors, a clerk, two county councillors and two district councillors? I think not!

The Government must be aware that they are asking us to achieve the unachievable, as this is the only logical rationale for their decision to continue to conduct their own business remotely until at least 21 June.
Please could someone confirm if a parish council did not hold their Annual Parish Council meeting in 2020, there is a statutory requirement to hold one before May 7th 2021? Thanks.
No. Appointments continue "until the next annual meeting of the authority" i.e. the 2021 Annual Meeting, which must take place during the month of May.

Are we taking too much of risk to have rearranged our 2021 APM for 28th April? We didn’t hold one last year so all appointments ran on. We have arranged it based on availability -  especially of our clerk who covers a number of other Councils.
The legislation states the the APM shall be held on such day in May as the parish council may determine (see full quote above), so I'm afraid you're a couple of days too early.
+1 vote
There is calls for evidence from us. I have responded as an individual but need my Parish Councils to meet so we can have a PC response.
by (2.9k points)
+2 votes

It's a strange situation and opens up all sorts of issues:

  • What this is effectively doing is encouraging councils to break their duty of care to their employees by making them clerk meetings without the appropriate distancing, not been themselves vaccinated etc
  • It's also contrary to other regs in place about indoor gatherings (until June at least)
  • Most councillor are 50+ and many older - therefore they may refuse to attend bringing the matter of being quorate into play and forcing them not to be able to attend - how undemocratic is that?

As commented here it shows a total lack of understanding that most parishes are a one man operation more or less with a part time clerk and no facilties of their own.

Locally the parishes have sent a letter to our MP emphasising all these concerns but it sems to have little impact.

What intrigues me is what will anyone actually do if councils rebel and say 'no thanks' and either carry on remotely, or as some are already planning meet informally remotely, then delegate a lot more powers to the clerk and chair to act?

by (660 points)
edited by
It does seem odd that the entire legislative framework was drafted, debated and passed into law within 12 days of the start of lockdown, but they can't find time in the next six weeks to extend it by a couple of months. How many times have they extended the furlough scheme and other elements of the Covid legislation?
0 votes
It is a strange one and something that I have raised with a councillor who sits on NALC.  To my understanding, the Coronavirus Act 2020 is the act that was extended by six months, and s78 is the section relating to Local Authority meetings.  That section required a regulation to be created to allow virtual meetings.  That section also has the deadline date of the 7th May 2021.
The regulation (The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels etc etc 2020) details how we can hold virtual meetings but there is no mention of the deadline date in that piece of legislation.

Surely if the primary legislation (Coronavirus Act 2020) has been extended, then the associated regulations must have been extended to?

I'm no lawyer but that make sense to me but clearly I am missing something as it is not being mentioned by NALC, SLCC, LGA or anyone objecting to the lack of extension.
by (24.4k points)
There is a date in The Local Authorities blah blah blah Regulations 2020.  Paragraph 2(4) states "These Regulations apply to local authority meetings and police and crime panel meetings that are required to be held, or held, before 7th May 2021."

I'm really struggling with the hybrid public access suggestion and I may be unable to provide open public access to the Annual Meetings. This is so frustrating.
Ah, so by adding it a second time, it has prevented a natural extension with the extension to the Coronavirus Act 2020.  How stupid.

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