Following the Court decision regarding remote Meetings, NALC met with County Association Officers this morning to discuss the implications. The following guidance emerged. It tends to reflect guidance in our earlier bulletin. It does not answer all the questions. NALC will, today, be sending a letter to Luke Hall MP (Local Government) requesting urgent clarification of basic issues where they conflict with the COVID regulations. NALC are also meeting with ‘partners’ ( Local Government Association etc) to provide further guidance to all local councils and we will keep you informed.
For the present -
Remote Meetings - the law is clear – they are not ‘lawfully’ permitted from 7th May
(Consequences of holding a remote meeting are unclear. Risk of challenge that decisions are unlawful. Qualified audit?)
Attendance of public at Council Meetings – This was not determined by the Courts and it was left open for the parties to return with their case. NALC and other partners have agreed to follow the interpretation of Government guidance (issued on the 25th March 2021) that the public can attend Council Meetings remotely and that this should be encouraged.
COVID guidelines – any in person meetings must meet the social distancing guidelines, hand sanitisers must be available, ideally introduce one way systems, and display notices reminding of the importance of compliance. Hard copy papers should only be used if absolutely necessary.
Meeting Venues - can take place (i) outside in the open air and outside the Parish; (ii) in licensed premises if no alternative (no alcohol);(iii) at other venues regardless of whether the venue is owned /controlled by the Council, eg principal authorities meeting rooms (cost should not be a consideration).
Tests – negative lateral flow tests cannot be imposed on attendees
Six Months rule disqualification of members –consider, if appropriate, sharing and rotating members to ensure compliance with the 6 month rule
Parish Meeting (Electors Meeting) - can be held remotely – any regulations unlikely to be enforceable.
Delegation to Clerk – where councils have difficulties with in person meetings they could, as an interim measure, delegate actions to the clerk but, in the interests of good governance, this should only apply to matters where the decision cannot be reasonable deferred and must be made in order to comply with a statutory or commercial deadline.