Call for virtual meetings to be made permanent

Richmondshire council leader Angie Dale.

The leader of Richmondshire District Council is calling for the Government to allow elected members to vote through decisions remotely on a permanent basis.

Councillor Angie Dale will ask Richmondshire District councillors to support writing to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government urging that the temporary Covid-19 measures change to the meeting rules be made permanent so that after May the council had the flexibility to hold meetings remotely or physically or by using a combination of the two.

Cllr Dale is also urging the council to back writing to Rishi Sunak MP, North Yorkshire County Council, town and parish councils and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority asking for support for this flexible approach to council meetings.

She said if the council’s campaign was successful the authority needed to explore the use of technology to develop remote meetings even more in order to attract a wider audience.

The motion to a full meeting of the authority next week states the introduction of virtual meetings as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a success and has brought many advantages.

It states while some of Richmondshire’s councillors faced up to an hour and a half round trip to attend committee meetings, virtual meetings would cut the authority’s carbon footprint and save a considerable amount of money on travel expenses.

The motion said: “For some councillors who have work and family commitments, mobility issues or are carers, remote meetings have been easier for them to attend. This may well help to attract a wider age range of potential councillors in future elections.”

The notice of motion follows widespread dismay in local government across the country at the Government’s decision to end powers enabling councils to hold virtual meetings.

The council’s opposition leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock said: “Even parish councils need more flexibility on this as the recommendation is for village halls to remain closed. We don’t need virtual meetings for everything, but it seems stupid to make people drive in a blizzard when there are acceptable alternatives.”