Friday, May 14, 2021

Back to physical (but blended) Council meetings


The Government has let the emergency Covid legislation allowing Councils to hold legal virtual only meetings to end. There was an unsuccessful judicial review against this decision, so I had to attend the Newham Council Local Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday in person, so that I can speak and vote on the applications.

The meeting was held in the "former" ground floor canteen of Newham Dockside building. 7 Councillors attended and while there was a few Council officers present to help run the meeting, planning officers and applicants joined "virtually" (there was no objectors to any of the planning applications present. This is a shame since there had been some online objections). 

There was some detailed advice on Covid safe precautions. I had to fill out a rather personal risk assessment on my health and any possible medical risks. Also, I was advised to take a Covid lateral flow test on the day (I ordered online Friday and the kit arrived Monday to my home address). The test was not as complicated as I thought it would be (check out the government video) and reminded me of the Chemistry Kits we had as kids. My test was negative. 

There was strict social distancing at the physical meeting and we all had to wear masks unless we were speaking.  It was concerning that some Councillors had been told that they did not have to have a Covid test beforehand since all staff had one. I think this was unwise. 

I fully admit in one way it was very nice to see Councillor and staff colleagues in person after so long.

While I felt comfortable at attending the meeting, I am sure that for many other Councillors/officers who may be elderly, shielding or have underlying health conditions, may not think it is safe to attend such meetings at this moment despite having jabs. While younger Councillors who have not had vaccine jabs may be concerned about the vulnerable adults they live with. 

If Councillors cannot attend these physical meetings they cannot vote on applications and risk being kicked off the Council if they do not attend such meetings in a six month period. 

Why on earth the Covid legislation could not have been extended to allow virtual only Council meetings for a few months longer is beyond me. Ask Boris. 

You can check out a recording of the meeting on YouTube here

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