Agenda item

Virtual Meetings

Joint report by Chief Executive and Leader (attached).


Council considered a joint report by the Chief Executive and Leader (circulated previously) regarding Virtual meetings.


Councillor Worden, Leader introduced the report to Council.


The Chief Executive gave a presentation to Council and outlined the following (circulated separately):


·       The history and current position

·       Experience of virtual meetings

·       Possible solution for holding meetings virtually

·       Advantages of holding meetings virtually

·       Potential risks and issues associated with holding meetings virtually

·       Additional recommendation to Council in relation to granting a dispensation to all Councillors under Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972.


Council then debated the proposal and asked questions to the Chief Executive.


It was moved by Councillor Bushell and seconded by Councillor Luggar “that the proposal put forward for virtual meetings be refused and that the Governance Committee be requested to look at different models”.


In response to questions raised by Members about the suggested model and about other models, the Chief Executive advised the following:


·       Councillors attending formal meetings virtually would not be able to cast a vote and that only Councillors meeting in person would be able to vote.

·       An option could be for a quorum of Councillors to meet in person with others joining the meeting virtually.

·       This report had been presented to Council in response to requests from Councillors to hold meetings virtually and that other Councils were currently operating virtual meetings on this basis.  The suggestion by one councillor that this was a “power grab” by officers was totally refuted.

·       Officers were used to the committee system and it was part of their role to present reports to Committees for decisions to be taken.

·       The suggestion by one councillor that the proposal being put forward was intended to make it easier for officers was totally incorrect.  The suggested process would in fact involve additional administration.

·       Virtual meetings allowed for a greater involvement and attendance of the press and Councillors.

·       The decision making powers would be given to officers to take decisions.  There was a potential risk that officer decisions taken could be different to the recommendation of the consultative committee however this could be mitigated by officers taking the decisions immediately following a consultative committee meeting taking place.  If the officer was proposing to take a different decision, this could be resolved in a number of ways with one suggestion being that a meeting would be held with the Group Leaders prior to the decision being taken. In practice this would be a rare occurrence.

·       If the officer decision had to be presented back to a committee prior to the decision being implemented it would defeat the object of not holding meetings in person.

·       Adoption of the recommendations would not prevent Committee meetings being held in person.

·       The vast majority of decisions were already delegated to officers to take. The same rules applied to officers taking decisions in that if they had a declaration of interest they would not take the decision.


An amendment was proposed by Councillor Worden and seconded by Councillor Prowse “that the whole issue be referred to the Governance Committee so that all options could be considered”.


The amendment was put to the vote and carried, which then became the substantive motion.


RESOLVED that the whole issue be referred to the Governance Committee so that all options could be considered.

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