Chairman's Column - 18 January 2022
Published on Tuesday, 18th January 2022
Meetings with Remote Access
“Under the COVID-19 legislation introduced in March 2020, Maldon District Council agreed to allowing ‘virtual’ public participation, when our committee meetings were online. When we returned to Committee meetings in person in May 2021, Council members attending were asked to undertake a COVID test before attending and to complete an online registration form to confirm the result. With public participants physically attending the meeting, social distancing was impossible due to the available space, which is why meetings were held for a time at Maldon Town Football ground, although unfortunately the sound and picture wasn’t terribly good when this was broadcast.
“The Council is still having to limit the number of physical meeting attendees due to the continuing COVID situation and to facilitate this some staff give their reports to committee meetings remotely via Microsoft Teams. The removal of the COVID-19 legislation means that Councillors making committee decisions have to be in a room together physically, but this does not extend to wider staff or other participants of the meeting.
“The new arrangement of mixing online and physical participation has worked well so, within the Public Participation Protocol, it has now been extended to members of the public wishing to speak at a meeting who cannot (or simply don’t want to) attend in person. We have been running meetings in a hybrid way since September 2021, and we are comfortable that we now have the facility for public participants to join meetings via MS Teams.
“Many local authorities are managing public participation in this way and we have received requests from planning applicants and planning agents to join meetings digitally, but we had been unable to facilitate this as it required a constitutional update. Members were asked in a recent paper to consider whether “they would like to allow for remote public participation which would give more resilience and mitigation against Covid risks, and also flexibility for those participating”. This has now been approved under delegated powers, and our default option for the time being is for participation to be via MS Teams. To register to participate at a meeting, visit https://forms.office.com/r/ymDp8Wgnvu
“I believe that providing a remote option helps with performance and efficiency goals. It will meet the demand of some of our customers and have a positive impact on the environment with less travel to and from our meetings thereby reducing the carbon footprint.
“Members of the press and public are still of course welcome to view meetings via the Council's YouTube channel https://www.maldon.gov.uk/watchlive where all meetings are streamed live. Broadcasting meetings in this way has seen a great increase in interest in council meetings and I am always pleased to see local people take an interest in what this Council is doing for its residents.
“As always, take care and I hope we can be even more accessible in the future.”
Councillor Mark S. Heard
Chairman of Maldon District Council
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