Remote council meetings: City of York Council

During the COVID-19 crisis, councils have been forced to shift communications online and interact with the public in very different ways.

Efficiency and income generation

Public participation has always been extremely important to the City of York Council which has traditionally held drop-in sessions post incident (more usually flooding). With restrictions from Covid-19, York had to consider different opportunities for the public to directly interact with Councillors supported by subject matter experts.

The solution

On Tuesday 28 April residents were invited to watch and interact with a live #AskTheLeaders Coronavirus question and answer session on City of York Council’s Facebook page between 5 and 6pm. Where the Leader and Deputy of the Council, the lead member for Climate Change and Environment along with the Head of the Paid Service, Director of Public Health and the Executive Director for Primary Care & Population Health from Vale of York clinical commissioning group answered questions from the public.

Residents interacted with the session by either submitting questions in advance by emailing them to or commenting on the live video on Facebook where leaders read out questions and responded. Residents did not need a Facebook account to watch the public live video however, they needed their own Facebook account to comment on the video with their questions if they had not already submitted questions via email. Questions were answered by theme rather than individually, so that the conversations covered as many topics as possible.

Each participant in the call was trained to join a secure Zoom video call from their homes and communications colleagues were able host the call, liaise with the participants and then to make their audio and video hidden to the public whilst the call was being live streamed.

The chat function of the Zoom call allowed for Facebook comments, prompts and notes to be shared throughout the call, not visible on the streamed video to Facebook.

In these unprecedented times, it’s essential that we try new ways of reaching our residents and enabling them to ask questions and raise concerns about the city’s response to the outbreak of coronavirus.”

“I look forward to hosting the live Coronavirus question time session and hearing from local residents. I hope the live session gives clarity, reassurance and useful information in this ever-changing situation.”
Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council

This is a great opportunity for us to get direct feedback from residents about how the lockdown is affecting them, their families and neighbours in York. We can also share some of the amazing work taking place in every community.

“I want to encourage resident to email us your questions and join us… to have a conversation about our city’s response to Coronavirus and how we are working together to save lives.”
Cllr Andy D’Agorne, Deputy Leader of City of York Council

With a city-wide population of around 200,000 and a Facebook following of 11,000 the Live Q&A reached over 11,600 people and received engagement from over 1,000.

Live viewing peaked at around 120 with 100 live comments received. Since then, there have been over 5,000 views across Facebook and YouTube of the Coronavirus Q&A.

Who was involved?

The participants included councillors, officers and representation for the Vale of York CCG, who each answered questions according to their role, experience and portfolio.

The planning and facilitation of the call involved colleagues across Communications and Marketing as well as Democratic Services, who shared learning following their ongoing work to facilitate online council meetings in response to the lockdown.


Sarah Mitchell-Baker