The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has begun a consultation on the experience and possible future of virtual meetings in local government.
It has put out a call for evidence on the issue along with a reminder that the temporary change in regulations that has facilitated meetings using video conferencing technology due to the pandemic lockdown is due to come to an end on 7 May.
This has been accompanied by the publication of updated guidance on the safe use of council buildings and face-to-face meetings.
Local Government Minister Luke Hall has written to council leaders praising their efforts during the pandemic and encouraging them to share their experiences of remote meetings to feed into any potential future legislation on their use.
He said: “As the vaccine roll out continues and restrictions are lifted, councils holding face-to-face meetings from 7 May are being given the support and guidance they need to do so in a safe and secure way.
“I am keen to hear from councils and local residents about their experiences of virtual meetings so that we can properly consider whether to make these a permanent option.”
Suspension of requirement
There has been a longstanding requirement on local government to for the public to have physical access to meetings, such as for full council and committees. This was suspended in April of last year to support social distancing during the Covid-19 crisis.
The call for evidence acknowledges that some local authorities have called for the rules to be changed for the long term to allow virtual meetings, but says the experience of them has been varied with some councils struggling to run them successfully.
MHCLG has posed a number of questions on the experience and asked for any quantitative data that is available.
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