Virtual meetings to attend this week – Shropshire Council cabinet and Ludlow Representational Committee #coronavirus (updated)

Virtual meetings to attend this week – Shropshire Council cabinet and Ludlow Representational Committee #coronavirus (updated)

Shropshire Council’s cabinet meets on Wednesday at 11am. Public questions must be submitted to the committee secretary no later than 11am this morning 27 April. Councillor will also be asking questions. Other items on the agenda are safeguarding arrangements and a pension deficit in West Mercia Energy. The questions look like being the most interesting part of the meeting.

Ludlow Town Council’s Representational Committee meets on Wednesday at 7pm. It will begin with representations from the public, followed by the unitary members question and answer session. Planning matters and an update on road closures will follow.

Councils around the country are going online. Experiences have been mixed. Using conferencing software has proved to be a steep learning curve for some council members. Not all have the appropriate technology. Some have a poor internet connection which fails to consistently cope with live streaming.

The emergency regulations that allow online meetings insist that the public must be able to attend council meetings that would have been held in public before the emergency.

At least one UK council meeting has been zoom bombed. But with experience and the correct security settings, disruption is proving to be a rare event.

As I write, access arrangements for Shropshire Council’s cabinet have not yet been published. It will use Microsoft Teams. The papers are here. The council is not allowing anyone to access the meeting until three minutes before the meeting begins 11am. That’s quite tight timing.

I have seen some questions going to cabinet. You can expect questions on care homes, the North West Relief Road, highways improvement, the rural retail economy post-epidemic, rollout of Covid-19 grant payments to businesses and support for schools that are having to meet unplanned costs during the epidemic.

Ludlow Town Council has published the paperwork for Representational (second item on the webpage). The council will be using Zoom. The Meeting ID and password are published on the webpage and in the agenda papers.

Local government is being pushed into working online by the Covid-19 emergency. This is long overdue. People should be able to participate in local democracy from their own homes. They should not be required to struggle up the Guildhall steps or travel 30 miles to Shirehall to take part in the discussions and decision-making that affects their daily lives.

One of the benefits of this torrid public health emergency could be modernisation of the way that local government works. It still holds meetings that would be recognisable to our Victorian ancestors. Which is ironic as the Victorians were great innovators.

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