The judgement has now been published on whether councils have powers to hold meetings online beyond 7 May, and the outcome is unfortunately not as many we and many councils had hoped. The judgement states that when the Coronavirus Act powers lapse, councils will be obliged to hold meetings in person. New primary legislation is required to allow councils to meet and make decisions using virtual technology.
The LGA have responded via a media statement, in which they stressed their disappointment and pointed out that councils by law, have to hold annual meetings within 21 days following local elections, so many councils will now have to use very large external venues to allow all members to meet in person.
They also highlighted a recent member survey that showed that 83 per cent of councils said that they would be very likely or fairly likely to conduct meetings both online and in a hybrid way once the coronavirus emergency was over if they had the power and that many councils have seen a significantly increased participation by the public in meetings where important decisions are made about planning, housing and the provision of local services.
The Government made clear during the Court case that it wished to give councils the option to hold meetings remotely.
The LGA have been working closely with their partners in Hertfordshire County Council, Lawyers in Local Government, the Association of Democratic Services Officers, NALC and others on trying to ensure that councils can continue to use online technology for meetings. They understand there will be no appeal against the Judgement so our focus will now return to legislative solutions.