Herts County Council meetings to continue virtually
PUBLISHED: 10:00 18 April 2020
County councillors in Hertfordshire have met virtually for the first time on Friday.
The strict lockdown measures in force across the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus mean council meetings cannot go ahead as planned.
So Hertfordshire County Council has drawn up plans to dramatically reduce the number of committee meetings scheduled – and for those meetings to be held electronically.
The first of those meetings – of the new special cabinet panel – went ahead on Friday (April 17) at 10am.
The special cabinet panel has been established to temporarily replace the county council’s existing cabinet panels.
It will have a changing membership of 12 councillors – seven Conservatives, three Liberal Democrats and two Labour.
And councillors will be selected on a meeting by meeting basis, depending on the items on the agenda.
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Up for discussion on Friday will be the council’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak and a financial update on that response.
Members of the panel will join the meeting remotely and – as a result of the technology – up to 500 members of the public will be able to observe too.
The move to a virtual meeting has been made possible as a result of emergency legislation that was passed by the government at the end of March – and which came into force on April 4.
And that allows local authorities to use means such as video conferencing, live webcast and interactive streaming for the first time.
Other lower-tier councils such as Welwyn Hatfield have already held video-conferencing meetings – with the first cabinet video-stream taking place on April 7.
North Herts District Council also held an extraordinary council meeting online on Thursday (April 16).
Many council meetings have also simply been cancelled by Hertsmere Borough and St Albans District Councils while they contend with the COVID-19 crisis.
Parliament is also set to sit virtually next week with 50 MPs - Ministers – sitting in the chamber and being quizzed by other MPs via zoom. It’s the first time it has not sat in-person.
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