The government has published the following consultation ("call for evidence"), which runs for 12 weeks from 25/03/2021 until 17/06/2021:
- March 2021: Local authority remote meetings - call for evidence (pdf print version of HTML webpage) (link).
- The "Purpose of this call for evidence" section within the above consultation document includes the following information:
- "The government would like to gather evidence about the use of the current arrangements for local authorities to meet remotely or in hybrid format, as set out in the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 [(link)] (and the equivalent regulations for Wales and Northern Ireland) under powers granted by section 78 of the Coronavirus Act 2020.".
- "These regulations came into force on 4 April 2020 and apply to meetings taking place before 7 May 2021. Local authorities in Scotland had express provision to meet remotely prior to the pandemic, and we are also interested to understand their experience of remote meetings since their arrangements came into force.".
- "The powers in section 78 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 were brought in specifically to make express provision for local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to deal with the challenges of holding physical meetings during the coronavirus pandemic. They have helped local authorities to redeploy resources to deal with the pandemic and ensure that essential business continues whilst protecting the health and safety of their members, officers and the public.".
- "We are aware that experience of remote meetings has been varied, and that while the experience of managing and participating in remote meetings has grown considerably during the period since the remote meetings regulations came into force, there have been examples of the difficulties this format has posed for some authorities.".
- "We have received representations from individual local authorities and sector representative organisations making the case for permanent express provision for remote meetings. The government would like to hear from interested parties about the pros and cons of making such arrangements permanent in England and the use of the arrangements to date.".
- "We are particularly interested to receive any quantitative data that can be included to substantiate the responses you make.".
- Note: The letter from the Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government to Council Leaders (link) includes the following information:
- "As you will be aware, The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 [(link)] do not apply to meetings on or after 7 May 2021.".
- "Extending the regulations to meetings beyond May 7 would require primary legislation. The Government has considered the case for legislation very carefully, including the significant impact it would have on the Government’s legislative programme which is already under severe pressure in these unprecedented times. We are also mindful of the excellent progress that has been made on our vaccination programme and the announcement of the Government’s roadmap for lifting Covid-19 restrictions. Given this context, the Government has concluded that it is not possible to bring forward emergency legislation on this issue at this time.".
Other sources of information: