Local democracy starts to resume in North Yorkshire

Almost two months after councils suspended meetings with elected members and handed decision-making powers to their chief officers due to coronavirus restrictions, some have yet to announce when the traditional democratic process will resume.

While some local authorities have relaunched virtual meetings and enabled anyone interested to view debates by screening them live and recording them for websites, across the region dozens of meetings every week are continuing to be cancelled.

Among the authorities in North Yorkshire to have restarted meetings in public are Scarborough Borough Council and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which have held cabinet and planning meetings respectively this week.

Despite some “teething problems”, the virtual meetings were described as successful by a number of viewers.

North Yorkshire County Council cancelled its planned annual meeting this week, but its leadership has announced an ambition to hold its executive meeting in public next week.

Other local authorities say they are still working to establish secure virtual meetings that can be viewed by members of the public.

A Richmondshire District Council spokeswoman said the council was testing an operating system for remote meetings and training councillors on its use, with a view to going live with virtual meetings in June.

She said: “The full council meeting planned for May will be postponed and take place at a later date – hopefully in June.”

Hambleton District Council said all of the authority’s executive and non executive decisions continued to be delegated to the chief executive.

A Hambleton spokesman said: “We are currently working up a system to hold remote council and committee meetings – we hope to have it up and running as soon as possible. Meetings do remain in the diary and will be updated as and when that is necessary as a result of the pandemic.”