Posted by: John Brace | 21st April 2020

UK local government and national government move to “virtual” democracy and “virtual” public meetings as coronavirus restrictions continue

UK local government and national government move to “virtual” democracy and “virtual” public meetings as coronavirus restrictions continue

                                               

By John Brace (Editor)
and
Leonora Brace (Co-Editor)

Phil Davies at a public meeting of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel (Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Confirmation Hearing 9th April 2020) from a still of a video filmed by Knowsley Council

Phil Davies at a public meeting of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel (Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Confirmation Hearing 9th April 2020) from a still of a video filmed by Knowsley Council

After a break of approximately four weeks, the House of Commons and House of Lords both met today (21st April 2020) and agreed new procedural rules which allow a hybrid of in person participation (with social distancing) and virtual participation.

Due to a change in legislation, local councils (and other local government bodies) have been allowed to hold public meetings virtually for over a fortnight so far during the emergency period.

This blog has published three pieces on the drama (plus video of the public meeting) stemming from the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel meeting held on the 9th April 2020 over the proposed appointment of Phil Davies as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Phil Davies faced grilling by Merseyside Police and Crime Panel as preferred candidate for Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner post, Merseyside Police and Crime Panel struggle to recruit required extra Co-Opted Member nearly 2 years after resignation and Why has the report of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel into Phil Davies as preferred candidate for Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner not been published yet? The usual amount of council public meetings (plus other parts of local government such as the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority etc) locally here on Merseyside has not been happening for a number of weeks.

However this is due to end soon.

Liverpool City Council will hold its first Planning Committee remotely under the new rules on the morning of Friday 28th April 2020 to decide (assuming none are withdrawn before the meeting) 11 planning applications and in the evening Wirral Council’s Planning Committee will meet virtually to decide on (assuming again that the agenda goes ahead as planned) two planning applications.

Wirral Council will be using its existing webcasting for the meeting with a test planned on Thursday evening (23rd April 2020).

Liverpool City Council will be sending out an email the day before their meeting, so their arrangements are less clear at this point (although instead of speakers just turning up to their Planning Committee meeting on the day of the meeting they are asking those who wish to speak to be in touch with them by Friday at 4.00 pm).

Communication received on the 8th April 2020 about future arrangements for public meetings of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (who usually hold public meetings roughly two to three times a month) stated, “we are currently reviewing the implications of those Regulations on MFRA, and considering a number of potential options for future meetings” and communication from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Metro Mayor office on the 15th April 2020 stated, “I can confirm that work is in progress to identify a suitable solution to enable the LCR Combined Authority to meet and comply with the provisions contained within The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020. The first scheduled meeting, in which these arrangements will be implemented, will be the meeting of the LCR Combined Authority on Friday 5 June 2020.

The changes contained in the Regulations require careful consideration and implementation and are still in development.”

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Responses

  1. Democracy was always virtual.

    • Thanks for your comment Paul, would you prefer the use of the word “remote” instead of “virtual”? 😀

      The House of Commons and House of Lords have agreed a hybrid of in person and online participation though (although these rules may change over time).


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