Public participation might still be possible
Eastleigh council say they will be moving committee meetings online after the Government temporarily removed the legal requirement for local authorities to hold public meetings in person during the coronavirus pandemic.
Eastleigh Borough Council have cancelled all meetings scheduled for April but under new powers introduced today local authorities will be allowed to hold public meetings remotely by video or telephone.
Local government secretary, Robert Jenrick, said:
“Councillors and staff are already doing the right thing by following our advice to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives. This includes working from home wherever possible, and the new powers to hold meetings virtually will make that easier.
It’s critical that they continue to provide essential services and find innovative ways to maintain important economic functions they perform like the planning system and they will now be able to do so.”
A council spokesperson told Eastleigh News that all Councillors are issued with an iPad and apps exist to bring together committee members and council officers in a virtual online meeting but the council was exploring ways to ensure public participation in the meetings.
It was possible said the spokesperson, that the council could hold its first online Mayor-making ceremony but there expressed doubts that the controversial planning application to extend the runway at Southampton Airport would be heard by Eastleigh Local Area Committee in the near future, given the level of public interest – many of whom would want to participate during the planning meeting.
The spokesperson said the Council was keen to reinstate meetings as soon as possible.
Council Leader Keith House said,
“Holding ‘virtual’ meetings means Council business can continue whilst ensuring the health and safety of councillors, our staff and the public in line with official public health guidance. Using digital technology provides greater flexibility for the Council to continue to take decisions about important local issues.”