Introduction to the Model virtual council meetings motion

The Model virtual meetings motion is a template that Lib Dem Councillors may wish to adopt in its entirety or with amendments to publicly demonstrate their commitment to widening participation in local democracy through the legalising of virtual and hybrid council meetings.

Model virtual council meetings motion template

The temporary enabling of virtual council meetings in response to the coronavirus pandemic allowed the council to continue making democratic decisions efficiently, transparently and safely without the need for physical meetings in one place. We welcomed the return to in-person meetings where they can safely and efficiently take place, but also recognise the benefits to democracy of providing flexible meeting options, including opening up local democratic decision-making and creating a more accessible experience for councillors and the public.

The council notes in particular the following advantages of being able to hold remote and hybrid council meetings: (Delete/add to as appropriate)

1) Some councillors and prospective councillors have work or caring commitments, or mobility or accessibility issues limiting their ability to attend meetings in person. Virtual meeting options provide more flexibility and accessibility for councillors to attend council meetings. In the future, this flexibility and increased accessibility could help to attract a wider range of potential councillors.

2) Many councillors have to travel a long distance from their homes to the council meeting place. This can make it more difficult for councillors to attend every meeting they would wish to attend. In addition, long travel time for short meetings may not be the most efficient use of councillor time; remote attendance on occasion may help maintain high levels of councillor attendance and be more efficient.

3) This council acknowledges the challenges around climate change. For example, a reduction in unnecessary travel by attending some meetings virtually rather than driving would reduce emissions and cut down on the council’s carbon footprint.

4) Virtual meetings can save money for the council in terms of travel expenses and venue costs.

5) Some councillors are also councillors for other councils in the area, and virtual meetings options can help them attend more meetings, even meetings taking place on the same day. This increases engagement in the various tiers of government, which is an advantage for this council and others affected.

6) Providing virtual meeting options can make council meetings more accessible and produce better engagement from the public and the press on various issues. For example, reporting of council business increased when meetings were held virtually compared to when council meetings must be attended in person by journalists and members of the public.

This council would like to have the flexibility to hold virtual, hybrid and in-person meetings to suit the local context and needs of residents and councillors.

This council resolves to: (Delete/add to as appropriate)

1) Write to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) urging a permanent amendment to the meeting rules set out in the Local Government Act 1972 be enabling local authorities to hold virtual, hybrid or physical meetings

2) Write to our local MP/MPs to ask for support for this flexible approach to council meetings

3) Continue to explore the use of technology to develop online meetings to attract a wider audience once our request has been successful.