Many things are thrown into disarray during this Corona Virus pandemic. Parish Council business is no different from any other, and we are effectively in a monitoring mode, holding space for things to happen but not actually meeting as a council.
We could meet, of course. We’re all online, and I guess we probably all have web cams. I’m sat here with a Whereby room on my screen, the room open for visitors when I’m in front of the iMac. And of course, when I’m not, it’s closed. It might work for me as a TDN trustee, or as a part of the Druid Camp association, but it doesn’t work for the Parish Council because of archaic law.
The current law if the Local Government Act 1974, and it states that Council meetings and Resolutions must be held in face to face and public meetings. It also states that we must host a public annual parish meeting by law, every year between 1st March and 1st June.
Currently there’s no way we can avoid either breaking the law or breaking the Covid-19 regulations. We are of course waiting for government to notice this situation, but they’re a bit busy. So we’ll break the law and look away. We’ll have to, our meeting hall is closed.
Wouldn’t it be great though if, after all this is done and dusted (if we’re still here), we could legally hold public meetings online.
We could livestream the Council meetings and allow for video participation. Hold meetings online as well as in halls and chambers. Allow for folk who can’t or choose not to get out much, to participate in their local “democracy”. We aren’t generally overburdened with members of the public in our meetings; this could change with virtual attendance.
Maybe once this is over we can think again about local democracy.