The Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO) and Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) have launched a petition calling for councils to be given the choice to meet remotely.
On a Change.org page the two organisations said: “We do not wish to impose remote meetings on councils. They should have the choice to decide how they run their meetings depending on local circumstances. They know best.
“The period of lockdown showed that remote meetings bring so many benefits to local democracy and residents, apart from the obvious public health safeguards. It is no longer just a response to Covid.”
The page cited as benefits for local democracy:
- Increased attendances at remote meetings by both councillors and the public
- Significant cost savings for some authorities arising from much less travel to meetings
- The environmental benefits of less travel, particularly in the large county authorities
- A better work/life balance for councillors
- Improved equality of access to meetings for all and opening up opportunities for more people to stand for election as councillors
- More transparency and openness for the public to see council meetings
- An option to move meetings online when there are constraints, for example bad weather such as snow or flooding.
The launch of the petition on Change.org comes just days after a Government minister reiterated the current position that any permanent change allowing local authorities to meet remotely requires primary legislation and sufficient parliamentary time.
In December organisations including the Local Government Association (LGA), LLG and ADSO called for councils to be given the ability - even if only on a temporary basis - to hold meetings in this way in light of the impact of the Omicron variant.
LLG and ADSO have sought to lobby ministers on the issue since a Divisional Court ruling in April 2021 which clarified that meetings held by local authorities in England under the Local Government Act 1972 would have to take place in person from 7 May 2021 when emergency regulations introduced in the early stages of the first lockdown expired.