The Council received and considered the report of the Town Clerk concerning contingency plans and delegations for the continuation of the Council’s democratic process during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Members had already heard that legislation to continue virtual meetings was due to end at the beginning of May and were disappointed that this Council and others across the country had been left in this situation. The decision conflicted with guidance on indoor gatherings and virtual meetings had been hugely beneficial for the Council to continue its work. They had made meetings much more open and accessible to the disabled, working parents and women and they hoped that a High Court judgement, due on 21st April would allow them to continue. A future with the possibility of virtual meetings would be welcomed and the Council should continue to lobby NALC and consider investing in technology to allow this to happen should the legislation be amended.
The Town Clerk advised that the Council had a Duty of Care to Members, Officers and members of the public and although the Council may be able to facilitate a small, socially distanced in-person meeting, was it right to do so while Covid-19 was still in circulation.
The Town Clerk advised that there were delegations in statute which had been re-affirmed by the Council in March 2020, and they could be used again in the decision making process. It was envisaged they would be temporary if required and a fundamental meeting to agree the Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) would have to be held in some way at the end of June. By this time, the Government roadmap out of lockdown would indicate in-person meetings should be held without restriction.
The Council agreed, that while in-person meetings were desirable, it was not the right time to implement them, so the delegations should be used in the short-term if they were required but the mater should be discussed at the Annual Council Meeting to offer a clear resolution.
1. That delegations in statute to the Town Clerk be re-affirmed as well as those per the Council’s Delegations Policy; and,
2. That in principle, and depending on the outcome of the High Court decision on the continuation of virtual meetings, these delegations be used for a temporary period until in-person meetings can be held again; and,
3. That this issue be re-visited at the Annual Council Meeting to be held on Tuesday 4th May 2021.