New legislation introduced to allow ‘virtual’ meetings

3 April 2020

Eagerly anticipated Regulations enabling town and parish councils to lawfully conduct virtual meetings have been published.

The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 (found here) have now been issued and will come into force on 4 April.

Separate regulations are expected for Wales next week as the Parts 2 & 3 apply to English local authorities. SLCC will provide a separate briefing for Welsh Community Councils once the Welsh Government has made its Regulations.

Members will be able to attend remotely, and there is provision for public and press access, and the Regulations apply to meetings required to be held before 7 May 2021.

Below is a short summary of the Regulations as applicable to town and parish councils in England. A detailed advice note and a tested model example will be published on the SLCC website early next week.

Regulation 6(c) removes the requirement for a parish council to hold an annual meeting in May 2020

Regulation 4 (2) carries the current appointment of chairman on until the Annual Meeting in May 2021 although councils may elect a chairman at earlier meeting should they wish to.

Regulation 5 covers remote attendance; extending the definition of “place” to include more than one location and including electronic, digital or virtual locations. It goes on to set out all the conditions that must be complied with, making sure the member attending remotely can be heard and where possible seen by other members and by the press and public and can hear and preferably see the other members.

Regulation 13 modifies the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 allowing for remote attendance by the press and public. Clerks should note that Regulation 13 (a) requires any electronic notice of a meeting to be published on the principal authority’s website and does not negate the normal requirement under Local Government Act 1972 Schedule 12 Part II Paragraph 10 (2) (a) to publish a notice in a conspicuous place.

The Regulations come with an explanatory memorandum which can be accessed here.

Government Announcements/Legislation