So, Councillors can still attend formal meetings from the comfort (and safety) of their favourite armchair, with a cup of tea (glass of wine?) to hand and with no need to dress up (other than the part that appears on screen). Virtual ‘Zoom’ meetings are to continue.
Councillors at last night’s Extraordinary (Virtual) Meeting of the Full Town Council agreed that it was too early to return to ‘physical’ council meetings and that any decision to resume Town Hall sessions be delegated to the Mayor and Town Clerk.
Councillors voiced their concerns that it was too early, whilst also expressing a desire to resume ‘normal’ meetings but only when the time was right. Cllr Vanessa Hillyer: “I think that we’ve also got to be aware that there are going to be some of us who aren’t going to be comfortable going back to these face to face meetings… Councillors shouldn’t be penalised if they feel uncomfortable about coming to meetings”
Cllr Peggy Dow: “I don’t think yet it’s right that we come back to meetings… We’ve got to give it a little longer and see what Wiltshire Council say, but we should stay with Zoom for a little longer.”
Cllr Mervyn Hall: “I look forward to the day that we meet face to face again, and I realise that’s not possible at the moment… It’s really a question of when”.
Town Clerk Shelley Parker quoted the advice of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) that it wasn’t (yet) safe to return to the chamber and Mayor Mark Cooper reminded all attending that the current legislation allows virtual meetings to continue until 07 May next year.
The only real debate occurred regarding the who would make the decision to resume face-to-face meetings. Councillor Susie Price proposed that any such decision be made by the full Council, whereas Cllr Nick Fogg proposed that decision be delegated to the Mayor (Cllr Mark Cooper) and the Town Clerk, and their decision would follow advice from NALC.
Councillors finally voted to support Cllr Fogg’s proposal to delegate.
They also decided to hold a regular series of informal ‘drop in’ virtual Zoom meetings where Councillors could be kept up to date with issues concerning the Council.