Following the Government announcement of further easing of lockdown restrictions from 4 July, NALC and SLCC strongly advise local councils to continue to meet remotely, without the need for face to face contact. Government rules still state that we should all work from home if we can. Local councils have the powers to hold public meetings remotely by using video or telephone conferencing technology until May 2021 (and this is likely to be extended indefinitely) and so most councils will have no need to meet in person. Furthermore, local councils have the duty to allow the public to observe council meetings without placing restrictions on the number attending, which many council meeting venues will not be able to accommodate in a safe way at this time.
However, where a local council does have an identified need to hold a physical meeting, as they are unable to conduct council business any other way, they can consider doing so from 4th July. These meetings must be managed within the social distancing and 'safer workplaces' guidance produced by the government, which includes the requirement to conduct a risk assessment to determine if it is feasible and safe to hold a physical meeting. It is important that this risk assessment is carried out, and any identified actions to reduce risk to attendees are implemented before any face to face meetings resume. Councils must keep documentation of this risk assessment and the reasons why the council has taken the decision to return to face to face meetings.
Local councils must follow the Government's 'safer workplaces' guidance before deciding to return to in-person meetings. This includes conducting a risk assessment and considering what precautions can be taken to manage risks, which might include:
- Providing hand sanitiser to those entering the meeting room
- Staggering arrival times for staff, councillors and members of the public
- Ensuring seating is placed at least 2m apart
- Asking people to wear face masks
- Holding paperless meetings
- If papers are provided, people should be discouraged from sharing with others to minimise how many people handle the papers
- Arranging seating so people are not facing each other directly
- Choosing a venue with good air flow, including opening windows and doors where possible
National ALC will be updating guidance on remote meetings this week to also include information on how to approach 'hybrid meetings' (where some people attend in person and others join remotely) effectively and safely
Posted: Mon, 29 Jun 2020 14:29 by Helen Carrier