Decision Maker: Chief Executive Officer
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
After consideration of a report of the
Assistant Chief Executive (Legal and Democratic Services) regarding
the proposed moving of the Council Annual Meeting in 2021, the
Chief Executive Officer noted the report and approved the moving of
the Council’s Annual Meeting from 19 May 2021 to 5 May
Under his delegated decision making powers in
the Officers’ Delegation Scheme in the Council’s
Constitution, the Chief Executive Officer has power, in cases of
emergency, to take any decision which could be taken by the
Council, the Executive or a committee.
The Chairmen of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees and the Chairman of the Council have given their respective consents to emergency decisions by the Chief Executive Officer in response to the Covid-19 pandemic being treated under the Special Urgency Procedure and being exempt from call in where timescales do not permit observance of the usual access to information timescales. Such consents were published in the blanket exemptions’ notice dated 27 April 2020. This particular decision, however, is a non-executive decision and is therefore not open to call-in in any event.
The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 (“the 2020 Regulations”) came into force on 4 April 2020 and allow formal meetings of the Council, Executive and their committees and sub-committees held before 7 May 2021 to take place virtually (and to permit remote attendance at, and remote access to, such meetings). Following the coming into force of the 2020 Regulations, a virtual meetings’ regime for the Council was introduced. All of the Council’s formal, public committee meetings are currently live-broadcast, being live-streamed via the Council’s YouTube page.
The 2020 Regulations are due to expire on 7 May 2021. The Government has confirmed that there is no Parliamentary time to extend or renew the Regulations before they expire or in the immediate future. The Government has issued a call for evidence regarding remote meetings however any new legislation to expressly enable the holding of remote meetings is likely to be some time away.
The Association of Democratic Services Offices, Lawyers in Local Government and Hertfordshire County Council, supported by the Local Government Association and the Government itself, have issued a claim with the High Court seeking a declaration which would allow for the continuation of local authority remote meetings beyond 7 May 2021 on the basis that the existing local government legislation (separate to the Coronavirus legislation) could be interpreted to permit virtual meetings. The claim is listed for a hearing on 21 April 2021, but there is no guarantee that the decision will be issued by 7 May 2021, nor that the case will be successful.
Bringing forward the Council’s Annual Meeting from 19 May 2021 to 5 May 2021 will enable it to take place before the expiry of the 2020 Regulations and therefore be held remotely. This will ensure the continuance of safe, expeditious and appropriate legal decision-making and governance arrangements in light of the enduring Covid-19 pandemic circumstances.
There is general support for moving the date of the Annual Meeting to 5 May 2021 from Group Leaders and the Chairman of the Council has also confirmed his agreement.
A report will be taken to full Council at its Annual Meeting regarding options for the holding of future Council, Executive and Committee meetings following 7 May 2021.
The other alternative considered was to keep
the Annual Meeting date as scheduled for 19 May 2021 however for
the reasons set out above it is believed to be more appropriate to
bring the meeting date forward to 5 May 2021 to take place before
the expiry of the 2020 Regulations to ensure the continuance of
safe, expeditious and appropriate legal decision-making and
governance arrangements in light of the enduring Covid-19 pandemic
Publication date: 22/04/2021
Date of decision: 21/04/2021