Meeting room

LGA: Response to High Court judgement on council meetings

The Local Government Association (LGA) has expressed its disappointment that councils will be required to hold full council meetings, despite Covid-19 restrictions still being in place.

It comes after the judgement in the High Court case brought forward by Hertfordshire County Council, Lawyers in Local Government and the Association of Democratic Services Officers.

The case decided whether councils could continue to meet remotely beyond 7 May 2021, which has been in place for over a year due to Covid-19 but will expire on the aforementioned date.

Commenting, Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), Councillor James Jamieson said: “It is very disappointing that this last avenue to allow councils to hold online and hybrid meetings whilst Covid-19 restrictions are still in force has not been successful.

“Councils by law have to hold annual meetings within 21 days following local elections, so many will now have to use very large external venues to allow all members of the council to meet in person.

“Councils want to continue to have powers to hold online and hybrid meetings, even when restrictions have been lifted.

“The current flexibility has been paramount in allowing access for both councillors and the public into council meetings. Many councils have, in fact, seen significantly increased participation by the public in meetings where important decisions are made about planning, housing and the provision of local services.

“Councils want the flexibility to continue to meet in this way and continue their business, especially in times of emergency, such as when flooding occurs or if there is significant traffic disruption due to weather conditions.

“The government gave clear evidence at the hearing in support of allowing the option of online and hybrid meetings. Unfortunately, the judgement is clear that primary legislation is needed to allow councils to use technology to hold meetings.”

A recent survey of 243 English councils that was conducted by the LGA showed that 83% of authorities would be very likely or fairly likely to conduct meetings online or as a hybrid meeting once the Covid-19 emergency was over if they had the power to do so.

Also, 79% said they would be very likely or fairly likely to hold hybrid meetings, where members can choose to attend in person or remotely.

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