Report by the Director of Law and Assurance.
The Committee is asked to consider proposals for meeting arrangements to the end of March 2022, following the relaxation of public health restrictions, and taking account of consultation feedback from county councillors. The Committee is also asked to agree that webcasting should revert to pre-pandemic arrangements.
15.1 The Committee considered a report by the Director of Law and Assurance on proposals for meeting arrangements to the end of March 2022, following the relaxation of public health restrictions, and taking account of consultation feedback from county councillors (copy appended to the signed minutes). The Committee was also asked to agree that webcasting should revert to pre-pandemic arrangements.
15.2 There was some comment about the reduction in webcasting. In relation to the webcasting statistics in Appendix 4, Cllr Burrett asked if it was possible to determine the percentage of views from within the Council and the Head of Democratic Services said she would find out and respond to him. Members asked if it was possible to record sessions in a less resource-intensive way but the Head of Democratic Services said the current equipment did not allow that.
15.3 The Chairman reminded members that it was only in recent years that the number of meetings being webcast had increased. As set out in the report, other meetings can be webcast where matters of significant public interest are due to be considered. The Chairman commented that the chairman of a committee also had the discretion to consider on its merits a request that a meeting should be webcast. A question was raised about the format of the minutes and the Director of Law and Assurance said that the style of the Council’s minutes should not vary depending on whether or not a meeting is webcast.
15.4 On the issue in paragraph 2.2 of the report that Cabinet Members should be allowed to participate virtually in formal meetings but not vote the Director of Law and Assurance explained that the Cabinet was formed under the Local Government Act 2000 rather than the Local Government Act 1972 and therefore was not bound by the requirement in the 1972 Act that members who take part in a decision-making meeting must be in the same physical space.
15.5 The Leader commented that, as Chairman of the Cabinet, he expected Cabinet Members to attend meetings in person but it was helpful to have the option, in unforeseen circumstances, for members to join virtually even if unable to vote. The hybrid technology also allowed minority group leaders, scrutiny committee chairmen and officers to attend Cabinet meetings virtually which was a positive step in helping to reduce travel.
15.6 It was proposed by Cllr Lord and seconded by Cllr O’Kelly that the proposals for the use of hybrid technology at Cabinet meetings should be amended as set out below in bold, italic text:
· ‘Cabinet: Cabinet Members will be able to participate virtually in formal meetings with prior agreement of the Leader, but where doing so they will not be able to vote. Non-Cabinet Members attending these meetings (scrutiny chairmen and minority party leaders) will be able to participate virtually.’
15.7 The amendment was lost.
15.8 Resolved –
(1) That the proposed arrangements for formal committee meetings to the end of March 2022, as set out in paragraphs 2.1 and 2.2 and in Appendix 1 of the report, be agreed;
(2) That the arrangements for full County Council meetings, as set out at paragraphs 2.3 to 2.5 of the report, be agreed;
(3) That the proposed changes to Standing Orders, as set out at Appendix 3, be endorsed for recommendation to the County Council;
(4) That webcasting should revert to the pre-pandemic arrangements; and
(5) That arrangements for formal member meetings should continue to be monitored by this Committee.