In a letter to all council leaders yesterday (25 March 2021), Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall MP has confirmed that legislation permitting remote meetings will not be extended in England. A copy of the letter can be viewed here.
In his letter the Minister explains that extending the regulations beyond 7 May requires primary legislation and, given the ‘severe pressure’ on the government’s legislative programme, it had been ‘concluded that it is not possible to bring forward emergency legislation on this issue at this time’.
Citing the continuing progress of the vaccination programme, the drop in numbers of cases of Covid-19 and the Government roadmap out of lockdown as key considerations in their decision, he recognised the concerns surrounding holding face-to-face meetings but stated that it is for ‘local authorities to apply the Covid-19 guidance to ensure meetings take place safely’. Click here to view the updated guidance on the safe use of council buildings.
It was also announced that the Government had launched an open consultation – Local authority meetings: call for evidence, which seeks to understand the experience of conducting remote meetings and will inform any decision on introducing legislation to make these arrangements permanent. This consultation will run for 12 weeks and closes on 17 June 2021. It is open to views from all of the UK, including Wales, who have already introduced legislation to meet remotely via the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act which comes into force on 1 May 2021. Click here to view the consultation.