This page has been prepared to assist Members when attending remote or virtual committee or council meetings.
These meetings are held in accordance with ‘The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020’ or ‘Coronavirus Act 2020’.
Members should refer to Council Procedure Rule No. 38 of the Constitution – Remote Meetings Held by Virtue of the Coronavirus Act 2020 when reading this protocol.
Remote meeting software
Remote meetings will be undertaken using Microsoft Teams. The ICT or Democratic Services Business Units are available to give advice on using Microsoft Teams. You must ensure for a remote meeting, that your camera is switched on and you know how to mute and unmute your microphone.
ICT and Democratic Services will be able to offer assistance at any time prior to the meeting so please ensure you have understood how to access the meeting before the day of the scheduled event.
ICT will ‘open’ the remote meeting at least 30 minutes before the formal start time of the meeting, to ensure that everyone is logged into the meeting and are confident in using the software.
The Chairman of the meeting will give Members a one minute warning prior to the start of the meeting, which for public meetings will be streamed live on the Council’s social media channels.
You must ensure that your ‘identity presentation’ on Microsoft Teams clearly identifies you as a Councillor, for example Councillor Brian Smith, as you will be taking part in the formal decision making process. Consistent identification helps the general public, who may be watching the webcast of the meeting, identify you as a Councillor.
When you ‘join’ the meeting and are prompted to enter your name please record in this manner, as per the example above, i.e. Councillor followed by your name.
Consider where you are planning to ‘access’ the meeting from. The environment should be quiet with no interruptions, for example by other people in your household. There should be a plain background free from any political artwork or slogans. We recommend setting the background to a blurred effect, which ICT and Democratic Services can provide instruction on. Do not use any pre-set virtual backgrounds that are available on Teams as this can affect the quality of the overall image.
You may wish to use headphones to reduce the background noise from within your household. Headphones can also improve the sound quality. If you are not able to use headphones please familiarise yourself with how to adjust the volume levels on your device.
You will be able to see yourself as you appear to others in the meeting or to those viewing the live stream. You should ensure that you can be seen clearly without glare from windows etc. Please remember that public meetings will be livestreamed as required by the legislation so wear appropriate clothing.
Eating and drinking
It would not be appropriate to eat during a traditional Committee meeting so this convention should be observed for a remote meeting. However, please ensure that you have a drink available during the meeting.
If you need to take a short break from the remote meeting please remember to switch your camera off and ensure your microphone is muted. Switch your camera back on when you return. For meetings of the Planning Committee, Members will need to be mindful of the provision of Paragraph 14 of the Protocol for Members on Dealing with Planning Matters which requires that any member who is not present throughout the whole of the presentation and debate on any item shall not be entitled to vote on the matter.
As a councillor you are bound by the Member Code of Conduct, and this form of meeting doesn’t change that requirement. Your actions, as a representative of the Council, could be observed by a public audience who are not visible to you and may be recorded by some, so please maintain the standards of behaviour required by the Code of Conduct at all times. The Council will also maintain a formal recording of the meeting, which will be available following the meeting.
Speaking during a remote meeting
Please indicate your wish to speak at a meeting, but wait until the Chairman has indicated that you may speak. It is very difficult for the public, and other Members and Officers listening, to hear what is being said when people talk over each other. The meeting should not be interrupted unless it is your turn to engage in the process when invited by the Chairman.
To reduce background noise and feedback, you should mute your microphone, and only unmute when you wish to speak or vote.
Disclosable Pecuniary Interests
If you have a disclosable pecuniary interest in an item which prevents you from participating in the debate and the voting, Members are requested to turn off their cameras and mute their microphones while the particular item is being discussed.
Voting in a remote meeting will be managed by the Chairman or the Democratic Services Officer in attendance, usually by taking the vote from each Member on the Committee in alphabetical order.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
When a Committee resolves to exclude the press and public by virtue of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, Members will be required to confirm that there are no other persons present with them who are not entitled to hear or see the proceedings.
What happens if something goes wrong?
If your connection drops away from the event, you can resume by going back to the original invitation to the meeting and click to re-join. All remote meetings will also have the option to ‘dial in’ if for any reason you cannot access through Microsoft Teams. Please keep the meeting link and the dial-in instructions readily available in case you need to refer back to these.
Please do not attend Castle House in person. Facilities are not currently available for you to join a remote meeting from Castle House.
For meetings of the Planning Committee, Members will need to be mindful of the provision of Paragraph 14 of the Protocol for Members on Dealing with Planning Matters which requires that any member who is not present throughout the whole of the presentation and debate on any item shall not be entitled to vote on the matter. This will apply if a Member does temporarily lose connection to the meeting.
If you have issues with your laptop/iPad please contact ICT before the day of the meeting where possible.
Appropriate images will be presented on the livestream broadcast should a remote meeting need to be adjourned for any reason such as a failure in the technology. Members of the public viewing the livestream will be given suitable messages such as the ones pictured below.