The government has now issued regulations that make a handful of amendments to 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 Primary Regulations’). These amendment will take effect as from 1 August 2020.
Of relevance to our sector, the first amendment of note is that “parish meetings” have been added to the definition of “local authority” in the Primary Regulations. In simple terms this means that Sch 12 Pt III LGA 1972 parish meetings are now also subject to those rules that have applied to meetings of a parish council regarding remote access, frequency of such meetings, and public and press access.
The changes to Part II of the Principal Regulations of relevance to parish councils are as follows:
- The requirement for parish councils to hold an annual meeting in each year has been disapplied (note that the Principal Regulations are currently drafted to only apply to meetings that are required to be held before 7th May 2021, so as matters currently stand this will mean ‘as you were’ from 7th May 2021 and thus the requirement to hold an annual meeting will then re-apply: this may of course change before then).
- The requirement to fix, at least three clear days before a meeting of a parish council, a time and place notice in some conspicuous place in the parish has been disapplied.
- The requirements for parish meetings to assemble annually between 1 March and 1 June every year, or twice yearly where there is no separate parish council, and no earlier than 1800 hrs, have all been disapplied (again, because the Principal Regulations apply only to meetings that are required to be held, or held before 7th May 2021, this may leave a relatively short window of 22 days in which to hold a parish meeting: this may of course change, but in any event, with the changes regarding public and press access, it is anticipated that this will not make such meetings an impossibility).
- The public notice requirements of parish meetings have been disapplied.
The changes to Part III of the Principal Regulations address certain issues relating to public and press access to meetings (i.e. meetings of parish councils, and now also parish meetings). From 1 August 2020:
- Any public notice of the time and place of meetings will now have to also include details of remote access by public and press to such meetings by electronic means, including by telephone conference, video conference, live webcasts, and live interacting streaming; and
The obligation to post such notices on ‘the website of the principal council’ has been amended so that such notices can now be posted on the parish council’s own website (the option to publish such notice on the principal council’s website still remains).