In April last year, the Government temporarily removed the legal requirement for local authorities to hold public meetings in person during the coronavirus pandemic. The council had been holding its meetings via Zoom and streaming them live on its YouTube channel. The temporary suspension came to an end in May this year, meaning councillors are once again required to attend in person, in order to speak or to vote.
Councillor Paul Follows, Leader of Waverley Borough Council said: “The safety of members of the public, our staff and councillors is our number one priority and we simply can’t accommodate everyone with adequate social distancing in our Council Chamber. Fortunately, we have been able to secure an alternative venue within the borough, but it is ridiculous that we have been forced to take this action to ensure we can undertake the essential business of the council to serve our residents effectively.
“The last year has demonstrated that we can very successfully hold virtual meetings, and we are extremely disappointed that parliament will not extend to local authorities the same right to attend meetings remotely that they enjoy as MPs.
“Moving our Full Council meeting to an alternative venue costs several thousand pounds, and this is an appalling waste of public money and our officers’ time, when both are still desperately needed to support our communities through the pandemic.”