It’s now a year since Councils were given permission by the Government to hold meetings remotely.
The regulations state that members of the council committee must be able to hear and (where practicable) see and be heard and (where practicable) be seen by other members in attendance at the meeting.
This full requirement also extends to members of the public attending to exercise a right to speak at the meeting. All other members of the public must as a minimum be able to hear (but if practicable be seen as well).
It took a while for our Councils to get the facilities organised for these regulations and the first County Council meeting didn’t take place until 4 May 2020. All meetings scheduled for April were cancelled.
The District Council postponed all meetings from the beginning of April until a planning meeting on 26 May.
The first full District Council meeting didn’t take place until 15 July (the first meeting since 19 February).
It does make you wonder why they have meetings every month when five months can go past in a pandemic without a meeting taking place.
Wantage Town Council held its first meeting via Zoom on 18 May but recorded decisions made by members of the Town Council via email relating to a meeting scheduled for 23 March.
Grove Parish Council held its first full Council meeting via Zoom on 12 April.
The regulations which allow meetings to be held remotely are only in place until 6 May 2021 and the government has announced that they won’t be extended so all meetings after this date will have to go back to being physical meetings.
Yet the Government’s roadmap proposes that organised indoor meetings are only permitted from 17 May, subject to Covid secure guidelines and capacity rules so there will be at least 10 days when no meetings can be held.
There is also the issue of where meetings can be held which will meet the capacity rules.
The rooms at the County probably aren’t big enough to hold all councillors but both the Town Council and the District Council should be able to hold their meetings in the Beacon in Wantage, and Grove has Old Mill Hall.
Given that, with the exception of Grove Parish Council, all our councils are run effectively by political parties who make most decisions in advance of the meetings we probably won’t notice any change if meetings don’t take place again.