Council Meetings Return to Town Hall

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May 18, 2021

An update on Committee and Full Council Meeting Live Streams.

Henley Town Council, like other Town and Parish Councils throughout the country, adapted to the challenges of COVID by livestreaming council meetings. This has allowed the public unprecedented levels of access to the heart of decision making in local government and has even created some breakout stars…

Henley Town Council has over 100 subscribers on YouTube, with viewers regularly tuning in to see the latest developments at committee meetings. Unfortunately, a recent High Court ruling determined that resolutions are only binding at in person meetings. This has presented us with a challenge.

Like many other Councils around the country, we are grappling with the logistics of providing safe and accessible meetings.  During our Recreation and Amenities Committee and Planning Committee Meetings on Tuesday 11 May, we trialed a new hybrid system. The results were inconclusive - Given the number of councillors present, we had to hold the meeting in the Queen Elizabeth II Hall. The acoustics of this room and traffic noise outside meant that the recording was not of broadcast quality.

We are expecting fewer attendees at our upcoming Town and Community Committee meeting on 19 May. This will allow us to re-test our equipment in the Council Chamber. The chamber is smaller and has more soft furnishings. This should improve the sound quality of the footage. We will attempt to livestream this meeting and will review the results carefully. The numbers expected at the following Full Council Meeting at the Town Hall on 25 May will mean that we will have to return to the Queen Elizabeth II Hall.

Sheridan Jacklin-Edward, Town Clerk added, ‘We know that local people have really welcomed the transparency and accessibility of online council meetings during the pandemic. Although I am delighted to see life beginning to return to normal… this ruling presents us with real challenge. We will continue to trial ways to run hybrid meetings. We want to ensure that attendees are safe and empowered.’

If you would like to ask a question or make a representation at a council meeting, please email us.

Please refer to the your chosen committee meeting agenda for further information. Please note that spaces will be limited, and social distancing must be maintained at all times. Masks must be worn.

Further information:

Why are we doing this?

During the pandemic, The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (the Regulations) gave the Town Council the ability to formally meet remotely to make decisions. Prior to this, the interpretation of the Local Government Act 1972 (LGA) did not make any provision for remote meetings. The Regulations contained a sunset clause (a date when they would come to an end) of 7th May 2021. Central government refused to extend the Regulations stating there was not enough time in the legislative calendar.  An application was made to the High Court to rule that the provisions of LGA should be interpreted so as to permit meetings to take place remotely. The Court refused to support this interpretation.    

What does this mean?

As a result of the above, effective from 8 May, any decisions not delegated to an officer will need to be made by the relevant committee or Full Council at a face-to-face meeting.  Except for Full Council meetings, councillors are only invited (rather than summoned) to attend Committee meetings        

Are there any exceptions?

Sub-committee and working groups. Where a meeting is not making any binding resolutions, they should continue to take place remotely. This will be the case for the majority of our sub-committees and working groups.