Richard Patient, Managing Director of Thorncliffe | Your Shout: “The government faces a problem. To extend remote council meetings requires primary legislation – an Act of Parliament, but extending the Coronavirus Act – which expires on May 7th – is highly controversial amongst its backbench members.
“Jenrick acted quickly last year, but this year he’s been lobbied by an avalanche of councillors, council chief executives and planners to make remote meetings permanent. A possible solution is to push through a very simple one line Act, but parliamentary time is running out given Easter, local elections and a likely Queen’s Speech in May.
“Councils will find it very difficult to hold in-person meetings, and comply with social distancing. What’s more many councillors are in the vulnerable categories and some councils have said the new zoom meetings are more efficient and effective, so there is great pressure to keep remote meetings for some time, if not permanently.
“There doesn’t seem to be much pressure from residents to bring councillors back to the town hall, so I suspect a way will be found. Welsh councils allowed remote participation in meetings long before the pandemic, and the format has been shown to be successful this year.
“If the worst happens and MHCLG does nothing, expect more delegated decisions from officers and smaller council meetings.”