When the pandemic struck, the government introduced temporary legislation to allow local authority meetings to be held online, in accordance with social distancing regulations.
Many hoped that this legislation would wipe out the pandemic and perhaps stay for good.
But it expires on May 7, and a legal challenge from an alliance of local government officials and lawyers has been dismissed, with judges ruling that “physical presence” at meetings was required.
In March, the council agreed to emergency arrangements for this outcome and they will come into play after the election until social distancing regulations are dropped.
A spokesperson said: âIn these unusual times, the ability to move face-to-face meetings to a virtual platform has allowed for continued democratic visibility and accountability, while ensuring that staff and advisors stay in touch. safe and healthy during the pandemic.
âAs the result of the High Court judgment ruled that meetings must now be held in person again, we will be implementing our plans to allow necessary meetings to take place in person in a safe and secure manner for all participants. “
Space will be reserved at County Hall for a quorum of members – 18 for the full board and a quarter for board and committee meetings – as well as a “reasonable” number of press and public as well as board officers. .
The councilors who will participate will have been appointed by the political group leaders and there will be a proportional number from each group.
All other councilors will be able to participate virtually but will not be allowed to vote.
The council has been webcasting its biggest meetings for quite some time now – but the need to switch to virtual meetings during the pandemic has seen a huge increase in the number of people watching events at County Hall.
In 2019/20, a total of 555 people watched the six full board meetings and 218 watched the five cabinet meetings. In 2020/21, that number increased to 4,294 views and 3,560 views respectively.
Of the 35 meetings that made up the full board, cabinet, and main committees in 2019/20, the combined total number of people who watched – live or later – was 1,442.
In 2020/21, 16 committees were webcast, including the full council, cabinet, and the new Fire and Rescue Services Review Committee.
Out of a total of 78 meetings, 18,044 people watched the webcast.
This included 5,272 watching live and 12,772 connecting later.