Council is asked to review the measures put in place and recommendations made for Council decision making by 31 July 2021 as agreed at its meeting on 16 March 2021.
The Leader introduced the report:
· Which set out the review of the recommendations and removal of delegations put in place in respect of remote meetings as agreed by Council on 16 March 2021.
· Noted that the Government was consulting on local authority remote and hybrid meetings and the Council would await the outcome, in the meantime it was appropriate that the Council reverted back to the previous delegations set out in its Constitution in which all formal committees requiring decisions would take place in public.
· Noted that since 7 May 2021 the officer delegated decisions had only been used once for the meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board - Informal in June.
· Flagged that the special dispensation for all Members concerning the non-attendance of Council meetings for a six-month period in light of Covid-19, would be reviewed by the Council on 12 October 2021.
Members made the following comments:
· Thanked the Leader for listening to the concerns made by the Residents' Association and Independents Group regarding the measures.
· Highlighted that the reversal of the Constitutional changes did not stop the practice of removing decision-making items from formal committee meeting agendas and holding virtual meetings excluding the public from seeing key information; he sought reassurance that such a practice would not continue.
· Noted that millions of fellow individuals aged under thirty were still awaiting their second Covid-19 vaccination and were unable to be fully vaccinated despite having to attend in person committees or working at a Council office.
· Welcomed the extension of the special dispensation for the non-attendance at Council meetings until October, asking whether the Leader would consider making a further provision so that any Members who felt unable for safety or health reasons to attend meetings during that time could still participate virtually even if not able to vote.
· Queried what Covid-19 related risk assessment or rules would be in place for in person meetings after the national restrictions were to be lifted on 19 July 2021.
In response the Leader explained that all formal committee meetings held in public previously would continue to be held in public and that where the technology allowed a hybrid option would be possible for Members to join remotely although they would not be allowed to vote. That the Public Health team (SCC) would issue further guidance on Covid-19 risk assessments in due course.
That Council agreed:
1. To redefine the definition within the Council’s Constitution to define Cabinet as a formal meeting of Cabinet.
2. To remove the delegation for all non-executive decision making to be delegated to the Proper Officer in consultation with the relevant committee chairman and for any non-executive decision making to be undertaken in line with the Council’s Scheme of Delegation.
3. To review the dispensation for non-attendance at meetings in relation to the six-month rule as set out in section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 at 12 October Council meeting.
4. To note that the Council has provided a full response to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s call for evidence in relation to the future of remote local authority meetings.