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LGA renew call for ability to hold council remote meetings Published Date: 22/10/2023

The LGA has renewed its call for the ability to hold remote meetings as Government signals intention to remove amendment to Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

In a briefing published ahead of consideration on 17 October of Lords amendments, the LGA said it was "disappointed" that the Government sought to overturn these.  Consideration of Commons amendments will now take place in the House of Lords on 23 October.

The LGA's briefing note said:

  • We are also disappointed that government has tabled a motion to disagree with amendment 22, which would give councils the flexibility to use virtual meetings technologies at council meetings. This is despite, in a recent LGA survey, 95 per cent of councils saying that they support the reintroduction of virtual meetings technology using a common-sense approach. None said that they would go fully virtual. 
  • Council meetings are an essential part of local decision-making processes, where decisions that impact on the day-to-day lives of residents are made. It is important that unnecessary barriers to participation are removed to support a wide range of people to take up elected roles, so that councils reflect the communities they represent. 
  • Certain groups find the requirement for 100 per cent in-person attendance particularly challenging, including carers, parents of young children, younger people, full-time workers, and disabled people. Many of these groups are already under-represented in local government but have a wealth of experience and skills to contribute if participation were more accessible.  
  • In a recent LGA survey, one in 10 councils said councillors in their authority had stepped down due to the reinstatement of the in-person meeting requirement, after it was suspended during the pandemic. Almost nine in 10 surveyed councils said they were aware of disabled councillors who would use virtual attendance as a reasonable adjustment if permitted. While seven in 10 said that councillors had enquired about virtual attendance for other reasons, such as work commitments, excessive travel times and childcare commitments.
  • We believe it is no longer reasonable to refuse councils the powers to enable councillors to participate in meetings in the most accessible or appropriate way for them. Virtual technologies are now the norm in both the public and private sectors, allowing for collaboration and input from a wide range of people to produce the best outcomes. Councils should also be able to reap the benefits of this technology to make local democracy more accessible and fit for the future.