Wakefield Council calls on government to rethink virtual meetings legislation

Wakefield Council has urged the government to reconsider its stance on virtual local authority meetings.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 5:10 pm
The meeting chamber at County Hall cannot accommodate all of the council's 63 elected members alongside social distancing.
The meeting chamber at County Hall cannot accommodate all of the council's 63 elected members alongside social distancing.

Ministers refused to extend Covid legislation allowing councils to make decisions virtually after it expired in May.

As a result, Wakefield's old Market Hall was used to host a full council meeting on Wednesday for the first time ever. The chamber at County Hall that's been used for more than a century does not allow the council's 63 elected members to socially distance.

And while space was no problem, the echoey nature of the Market Hall meant it was difficult to hear councillors speaking.

Wednesday's full council meeting was held in the old market hall.

Several members were also forced to miss proceedings entirely because of test-and-trace rules.

The Labour council's leader Denise Jeffery told the meeting: "A number of my colleagues are self-isolating.

"We do think we need some legislation around being able to meet in different ways.

"It's a really difficult situation.

"Being able to host hybrid meetings would be quite beneficial."

It comes two days after a parish council in Cheshire was forced to hold a meeting in a car park, because of the rules.

Coun Jeffery said Wakefield Council s chief legal officer had written to the government to ask them to rethink the matter.

The local authority said earlier this year that it would be difficult to host hybrid meetings, where councillors can join remotely as well as in person, because its buildings were not equipped with the right technology.

Coun Jeffery's comments were supported by the Conservative Opposition.

Local Democracy Reporting Service