Government announces remote meeting powers not being extended

MEETING1

The secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, has written to council leaders about remote meetings to confirm the government has considered the case for extending legislation very carefully and has concluded that it is not possible to bring forward emergency legislation on this issue at this time.

The chairman of the National Association of Local Councils, Cllr Sue Baxter, has responded to express her disappointment, as has the Local Government Association (LGA) in their statement.

Following this confirmation, the government has also updated the guidance on the safe use of council buildings which aims to help councils operate safely and securely, including using existing powers to reduce the number of face-to-face meetings deemed necessary. NALC has not been involved or consulted on the update to this guidance and will be working with county officers to assess the new advice and provide feedback to the government.

The government has also published a 12-week call for evidence about how remote meetings have been used, this is to inform any potential future legislation regarding their use beyond the coronavirus pandemic. Local councils are strongly urged to respond to the call for evidence. NALC will also be responding as part of ongoing engagement with the government and other key stakeholders such as the LGA.

As part of its lobbying on remote meetings, NALC is also supporting the application by Hertfordshire County Council, Lawyers in Local Government and Association of Democratic Services Officers to the court for a declaration. This will continue despite the government’s decision and is expected to be determined before the end of April.

Read the letter sent to council leaders

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