UK news Cambs council leaders oppose Government decision to end virtual meetings last minute news
PremierLeague-News.Com- The government has said it will not bring in new legislation to allow for virtual council meetings past May 7
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! Council leaders in Cambridgeshire have criticised a Government decision not to continue allowing virtual meetings to be held past May 7. Following the introduction of pandemic restrictions, the Government introduced legislation last year which allowed councils to meet and take decisions virtually from April, 2020. That legislation is due to expire on May 7, and in a letter to councils on March 25, the minister for regional growth and local government, Conservative Luke Hall MP, said the legislation will not be extended. He said the Government had considered the case for new legislation “very carefully”, but said it would have a “significant impact” on the government’s legislative programme “which is already under severe pressure”. He also said he is “mindful of the excellent progress” on the vaccine roll-out and plans to ease pandemic restrictions. 'Arrogant excuses' The decision to discontinue virtual council meetings has been opposed by the Local Government Association, as well as Jackie Weaver, who rose to prominence through a viral clip of a chaotic virtual meeting of Handforth Parish Council. Council leaders in Cambridgeshire have also voiced their opposition. The leader of Cambridge City Council, Labour councillor Lewis Herbert, said: “Like council leaders up and down England, I was so angry when I saw the pathetic and arrogant excuses ministers gave for ending virtual meetings. “So I wrote back to government last week, saying how strongly Cambridge City Council objects to the deliberate ending of virtual meetings. Labour councillor and leader of Cambridge City Council, Lewis Herbert (Image: Cambridge News) “Particularly as Parliament is continuing them to June 21, and likely beyond that. “May 7 is way before government health advisers say it will be safe to hold large gatherings indoors, and many Cambridgeshire councillors are still shielding.” Cllr Herbert was also critical of the announcement coming “in a week when ministers spent all their time on petty guidance telling councils how to fly flags”. He added “residents welcomed virtual meetings and this will cut their rights and transparency”.
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. Cllr Smith added: “Moving to remote meetings has allowed all of us to protect our councillors, our officers and the public which is surely just as important now as it was 12 months ago. “Very few councils will have large enough spaces to allow all of the elected members to participate in meetings whilst at the same time socially distancing.
Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council Bridget Smith
(Image: David Johnson Photographic)
"Indeed, I know of one parish council that meets in a tiny changing room of the cricket pavilion, which is cosy at the best of times, but impossible under the current restrictions.” The Conservative leader of Cambridgeshire County Council did not explicitly criticise the Government, but he said he is “disappointed” in the decision not to continue allowing virtual meetings. He said: “I’m disappointed that government didn’t make time for this legislation and leave the decision of whether or not to have virtual meetings to local government, because that is the purpose of local government – to decide what is best for their area”. Cllr Count said it should be a decision “for all of us in local government” whether or not virtual meetings are held. He described how the needs and travel requirements vary greatly depending on the type of authority and where in the country it is located. All three councillors said they have noticed increased public participation as a result of meetings being held virtually.
The Government has begun a call for evidence “to inform any potential future legislation” on allowing remote meetings in future. In a statement, Mr Hall said: “Councils continue to play a vital role in our response to the pandemic and I am grateful for how they have used emergency powers introduced a year ago to continue to operate at a difficult time. “As the vaccine roll-out continues and restrictions are lifted, councils holding face-to-face meetings from May 7 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.”