House of Lords backs NALC's call for remote meeting powers


The House of Lords has backed calls from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) for councils to be able to hold remote council meetings by voting to support an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. 

NALC's president, Baroness Scott of Needham Market, has spearheaded a campaign in parliament to give all councils, including England's 10,000 local (parish and town) councils, the flexibility to hold council meetings remotely. 

Baroness Scott has spoken out strongly in numerous debates since the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was introduced in parliament's upper chamber earlier in the year, tabling several amendments, including on remote meetings during the Bill's Committee Stage. 

During the Bill's second day of Report Stage on 13 July 2023, Baroness Scott was among numerous supporters of a new clause to the Bill proposed by Baroness McIntosh of Pickering. 

In her speech during the debate, Baroness McIntosh said, "During the pandemic, it was generally felt that remote meetings of councils worked very effectively, and the change has been a source of great disappointment and increasing irritation to local councils". She went on to add "there are very good reasons for hybrid or remote meetings in certain circumstances; the flexibility that was enjoyed during the COVID-19 pandemic should apply where councils choose to use it". 

Opposing the amendment, the minister Earl Howe commented that "it is our duty to safeguard democracy as fully as we can and not to short-change it". 

While the vote on the amendment was agreed by 169 to 156 votes, given the government's opposition, it is likely to be overturned when the Bill returns to the House of Commons. 

NALC will continue working with various organisations, including the Association of Democratic Services Officers, Lawyers in Local Government, the Local Government Association and the Society of Local Clerks, to lobby Members of Parliament to retain the clause in the Bill. 

Read the Hansard record of the debate

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