Rotherham Council leader calls for government to allow meetings to be held virtually due to Covid

The leader of Rotherham Council has called on the government to allow council meetings to be held virtually again, as Covid cases spike.

Monday, 10th January 2022, 12:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 10:09 am

Councillor Chris Read, Labour leader of the council, spoke ahead of the next full council meeting on Wednesday, which will see 59 councillors plus staff, public and press meet at the Magna centre.

Legislation was passed in to allow council meetings to be held virtually in April 2020 to reduce the spread of Covid.

However, meetings had to resume in person in April 2021 when the temporary statutory regulations expired.

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"There is a cost and a complication for us going to Magna each time which isn't ideal."

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The Association of Democratic Services Officers, Lawyers in Local Government and Hertfordshire County Council launched a judicial review to allow virtual meetings to continue, which was dismissed by High Court Judges.

Councils across the country are now having hire large venues to hold in-person meetings, in a bid to meet distancing requirements.

In Sheffield, full council meetings were held at Ponds Forge at a cost of £10,000 per meeting.

Councillor Read told the local democracy reporting service: “It’s much better for us, much safer to be able to hold all our meetings virtually at the current time.

“There is a cost and a complication for us going to Magna each time which isn’t ideal.

“But at the time when the government’s telling people they should work from home where they can, it seems perverse to say that councillors all have to go in a room all together.

“It seems wrong to me that the government are telling people to work from home where you can, but specifically saying you councillors can put your health at risk by going and all sitting together in one big room.

“You just want to do everything you can to make sure people are safe, and forcing 80, 90 people in a room together – it’s just unnecessary, and we shouldn’t have to do it, and the government could easily fix that.”