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Council to hold virtual full meeting due to Covid rise

Cheshire West & Chester Council is to hold its next full meeting virtually with decisions later ratified under urgency procedures, in defiance of the Government’s policy that councils must revert to physical meetings.

The Labour-led council said it had taken the unusual step on the basis of advice from its director of public health, chief executive and monitoring officer in the face of rising local Covid-19 infections.

Its online meeting will follow the format of a normal full council except that no formal decisions can be taken.

Councillors will indicate what decisions they would have taken and these will then be implemented later through procedures for urgent decision-making.

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A normal meeting would see 70 councillors present plus officers and members of the public in the same room for up to four hours.

Council chairman Bob Rudd said: "Cheshire West and Chester has experienced a sharp increase in Covid-19 infection rates over the past few weeks.

"In the light of this, the council has taken the correct legal guidance and advice from our public health team and taken the decision not to hold the meeting in person. Instead, we will host an informal remote meeting which will be broadcast to residents as a webcast.

"This approach poses no public health risk and members of the public will be able to speak remotely and ask questions as part of the normal democratic process. It will still provide members the opportunity to submit questions and motions. Questions can be posed and answered and motions on notice debated in the usual way.”

Cllr Rudd said the option of delaying the meeting had been rejected as it could not be known when the public health situation would have improved sufficiently for a safe physical meeting.

He said informal remote meetings would not become the normal way for the council to conduct business and an in-person full council was planned for 21 October.

The Local Government Act 1972 requires councillors to be physically present at a meeting to make valid decisions and that the meeting must be open to the public to attend.

Remote meetings were allowed under Covid-19 emergency measures, but these lapsed in May.

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