|We have seen in the news that Covid cases are rising and have heard of people we know testing positive. As such, we are taking this opportunity to remind you of the corporate NALC guidance issued in July further to Covid restrictions being lifted.
At this stage there is no indication that the government plans to introduce or reintroduce any preventative measures. Bearing in mind remote meetings are not permitted in England unlike last winter, councils looking to take practical steps to respond to rising cases might wish to approve reasons for absence (within the relevant six month period) for councillors who do not wish to attend meetings because of their Covid concerns. Councils can ask meeting attendees to wear masks but cannot compel mask wearing. They could implement social distancing measures in offices and for meetings if they have not already done so. Councils can enable staff, including the clerk, to attend meetings remotely.
Remote meetings – approval of councillor absences
Further to the above advice on approving reasons for councillor absences, we advised recently on a case where a council did not want to hold in person meetings so delegated all powers to the clerk and held remote meetings to advise the clerk on councillors’ views of how to deal with specific issues. On the basis the council had not approved the reasons for absence at a council meeting during the relevant six month period, the issue was that as six months have passed since remote meetings were legal in England, the councillors have lost their seats and there will be vacancies.