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First-ever webcast meetings

By George Makin | Dudley | Coronavirus | Published:

Councils in the Black Country could soon be holding their first-ever remote committee meetings after the Covid-19 pandemic suspended normal democracy.

Dudley Council

Sandwell and Dudley have both said they are now working to put decision making back on the agenda after the government changed legal requirements which meant councillors had to meet in person.

Councillor Patrick Harley, Conservative leader of Dudley Council, said while normal meetings had been suspended, Labour and Tory councillors had agreed urgent issues could decided by the chief executive and directors reporting to senior politicians.

He added: “We’re awaiting national guidance around the new regulations, which is due imminently.

“In the meantime we are working on the use of technology to carry out urgent meetings remotely, to involve both members and the public.

“Detailed consideration has been given to the practical application of the regulations to other aspects of the council’s business by using the most appropriate methods and technology available to us.”

Announcing the new rules, Local Government Secretary MP Robert Jenrick said: “Local authorities are the backbone of our democracy and they are playing a vital role in the national effort to keep people safe.

“This change will support them to do that while maintaining the transparency we expect in local decision making.”

The new rules mean committees with statutory powers like planning and licensing can use video conferencing.

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In mid-March, both councils cancelled all public meetings.

Sandwell set up an emergency committee which has webcast its discussions.

Backing the changes in legislation, Council Leader Yvonne Davies said: “I welcome the introduction of the regulations.

“We’re currently trialling arrangements for remote participation in meetings so that members can get back to taking the vitally important decisions that will enable the council to continue to respond and meet the needs of our communities during this very difficult time.”

George Makin

By George Makin

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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