Coronavirus – Government considers allowing virtual council meetings

Robert Jenrrick
Communities minister Robert Jenrick speaking at Microsoft's campus in Thames Valley Park on Thursday, November 28 Picture: Phil Creighton

The Government is considering allowing council meetings to be held virtually during the coronavirus crisis.

At the moment, it is not possible for councillors to vote without being present in meetings, but with a number of them being 70 or over, or with health conditions, this is incompatible with Boris Johnson’s call for at-risk groups to self-isolate themselves for 12 weeks from this weekend.

Earlier today, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick held a conference call for more than 300 council leaders and sector bodies.

In it, discussed ways in which councils can maintain their social care obligations, provide vital support for vulnerable people and support local economies.

He said: “As part of the national effort to keep the public safe and deliver essential public services, this government stands with local councils at this difficult time.

“My absolute priority is to ensure they are well placed to respond to coronavirus and protect vital services, including social care.

“Everyone needs to play their part to help the most vulnerable in society and support their local economy, and the government will do whatever is necessary to support these efforts.”

These efforts include the previously announced decision to defer local elections until May next year.

Also being considered are a deferment on Ofsted inspections for schools caught up with coronavirus, and a suspension of Care Quality Commission inspections.

Local government audits will now have a deadline of September 30, and councils will also be able to move deadlines on Freedom of Information requests.

Wokingham Borough Council leader Cllr John Halsall is expected to make an emergency statement on the coronavirus and how it affects the running of the council when it meets on Thursday, March 19.

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