Local government lawyers and democratic services officers criticise lack of government response to call for evidence on remote meetings

LLG (Lawyers in Local Government) and ADSO (the Association of Democratic Services Officers) have expressed disappointment ahead of this week’s local elections that the Government has still not responded to the call for evidence on local authority remote meetings which was held from March to June 2021.

In a statement the two organisations said: “The case for remote meetings has been made strongly by our two associations, councils at all levels, local government bodies and organisations such as Mumsnet.

“Despite those efforts, councils will be welcoming a new cohort of ambitious and forward-thinking councillors who will want to be the most effective and productive representatives they can be, with the most modern facilities available to them.

“Imagine their confusion and frustration when they realise that, in a digital age, the opportunity to harness new technology to conduct meetings in a flexible and innovative way and to promote ease of public access and engagement is not an option as it is across almost every other sector of our society, including Parliament, and in Wales and Scotland.”

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LLG and ADSO added that if local government wanted to be inclusive and recruit and retain a diverse and effective cohort of councillors, plus ensure open local government democracy to all members of communities, “then every step should be taken to create the conditions for that to happen”.

They said: “Giving councils the choice to meet remotely allows our councillors to be modern and successful community leaders. We are advocating that local choice. We are not trying to force remote meetings on everyone.

“Such meetings also have a positive environmental impact by limiting the need for costly and damaging travel across council boundaries, a real issue for large councils whose councillors are diversely spread or have difficulty travelling.”

LLG and ADSO noted that just under 11,000 people had signed their petition, and councils across the country had approved their motion for remote meetings as an option.

“They, like us, believe in a strong and modern local democracy, accessible to all. It is what local government wants and deserves for their councillors and communities. But it is also in everybody’s interest that these meetings are run properly.”

LLG and ADSO said: “That is why we once again make a plea to government to pass the necessary legislation to make remote meetings an option and to engage with us to agree a robust governance framework within which those meetings can operate efficiently and effectively. It is after all what a modern local democracy should look like.”

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