Herefordshire Council is set to conduct its public committees as virtual meetings that are able to be viewed live online, following a recent change in legislation due to COVID-19.
The first meeting to be held in this way will be a Cabinet meeting scheduled to take place on Thursday 30 April 2020 starting at 2.30pm. The agenda and papers will be published a week before the meeting in the normal way on the Cabinet page.
Until now it was not possible for any English local authority to hold public meetings without members being physically present in a council committee room, however the legal rules were changed earlier this month (4 April 2020) to take account of the social distancing protocols currently in place.
The new format will allow committee members to meet 'virtually', and for members of the public to watch via their smartphone, tablet or personal computer. This service will temporarily replace the audio-minute service while the public health emergency measures remain in place. There will still be the opportunity to submit questions in advance.
Alistair Neill, Chief Executive Herefordshire Council, explained: “Over the past month our focus has rightly been responding to the impact of COVID-19 to ensure our most vulnerable residents are supported during this difficult time. However, there are formal decisions that need to be made so that work and projects can be progressed – these will be essential to our future recovery efforts.
“Council decisions must continue to be made in an open and transparent way, and the democratic process followed. To do that we must continue to hold meetings and discussions in public. Holding virtual meetings in this way allows us to do this, and we hope that as many people as possible will engage in this new way of working.”
Further committee meetings will be held virtually during May 2020 and while the lockdown and social distancing measure remain in place.
Details about the new meeting format can be found at Herefordshire.gov.uk/virtualcommittees.