Now is the time to retain remote meetings

By Cllr Brigid Jones | 15 April 2021

May 7 doesn’t feature in the Government’s Roadmap out of Lockdown, but it’s a date that’s now looming large in Council calendars. On this day, should the Local Government Association’s (LGA) High Court challenge fail, the rules allowing us to carry out official business through remote meetings expire, an exemption that the government didn’t prioritise making the parliamentary time available to extend.

With four in ten adults still unvaccinated, and the vast majority of those with a vaccine having only received one dose, many councillors and staff are understandably reluctant to return to large physical meetings at a time when any other gathering of this size would be illegal. With half of the UK’s councillors aged 60 or over, there is a higher risk profile in a council chamber than in your average workplace. In Birmingham’s case, a normal full council meeting would see 101 of us, plus staff, press and public, in our beautiful but stuffy Victorian Council Chamber. It’s accessed down narrow corridors and bottleneck doors and is sweltering even on the dullest days. Many I have spoken to are, frankly, terrified.

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