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District to write to Secretary of State to call for ability to hold remote meetings

A district council is to write to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, to call for councils to be given the ability to hold remote meetings.

A motion passed at a meeting of North Norfolk District Council demanded parity across the UK and for councillors in England “to meet and vote on line as they see fit”.

The motion, proposed by Cllr John Rest, said: “We have long called for the ability to be able to attend and vote on line. Whilst we will always want councillors to be able to meet in person, there needs to be the provision for some to be online, for example if they are vulnerable, have caring responsibilities or difficulties with transport.

“It is also in line with reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2030. Northern Ireland recently agreed in its parliament to allow councils to meet and vote remotely, Wales and Scotland already allow this. England is being left behind.”
The motion also called on the council to re-investigate the feasibility of hosting hybrid meetings in one room, such as the council chamber.

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In April this year the Divisional Court ruled that meetings held by local authorities in England under the Local Government Act 1972 would have to take place in person from 7 May when emergency regulations introduced in the early stages of the first lockdown expired.

In June LLG (Lawyers in Local Government) called for the ability of local authorities in England to hold meetings virtually to be put on a permanent footing, “to be used flexibility by each individual local authority when it so determines”.

Earlier that month the Local Government Association made a similar call in its submission to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government call for evidence and urged ministers not to adopt an “overly prescriptive approach”.

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