Virtual Meeting Procedure
From 4 April 2020 until May 2021, Town & Parish Councils have been given provision under “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”)” to hold legal virtual meetings in order that Parish Council business can be maintained.
A variety of different platforms including Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or Zoom are available.
The Town Council will be using the Zoom platform in order that the meeting is publicly available. The Clerk will Host the meeting using the Town Council paid account.
The meeting will be a formal Town Council meeting and will be held using the agenda and summons which the Clerk has published. It will be governed by the usual Standing Orders, Financial Regulations and associated policies.
A code and link to the virtual meeting will be published on the agenda which will also go on the noticeboard, on the website and on social media in order that the public are able to attend, just as they would be able to attend a meeting in the Community Hall.
Attendees will also have the ability to dial in to the meeting via telephone.
Attendees will collect in the Zoom ‘waiting room’ prior to the meeting. As the ‘Host’, the Clerk will have the ability to mute or remove anyone deemed a nuisance at the Chairman’s request.
All attendees will be set to ‘mute’ on entry to the meeting and only the Chairman of the meeting will remain unmuted. All other participants, if they wish to speak will be invited to unmute. The Clerk will have the ability to mute anyone who forgets.
All Councillor attendees should ensure they type “Councillor” followed by their full name when joining the meeting, in order that members of the public are able to identify them.
The Councillor attendees and staff will introduce themselves at the start of the meeting. Members of the public may introduce themselves if they should wish.
If a Councillor has declared an interest in an item on the agenda, they will be placed in the ‘waiting room’ for the duration of the agenda item. Once the item has been concluded, they will be re-admitted.
In order to protect participants from malware, the ‘chat’, file sharing and screen sharing function will be disabled during the meeting. If necessary, the Clerk will display any documents required using the ‘share screen’ function.
As with meetings in the Community Hall, members of the public will be given the opportunity to speak during public participation, but will not be permitted, unless invited to do so by the Chairman, to speak at other times.
Anyone wanting to speak should raise their hand using ‘raise hand’ in the options within the Participants section or by waving if they’re using a camera, so that the Chairman can see. Any Councillor participating in the meeting via telephone will need to ask the Chairman to speak.
Meeting participants may wish to protect their personal environment by choosing a virtual background in the Zoom Settings ‘Virtual Background’ or alternatively should consider what can be seen behind them while on camera.
Confidential or Exempt Items or Issues
When confidential, or “exempt” issues – as defined in Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 – are under consideration the Chair and Members should ensure that there are no members of the public at remote locations able to hear or see the proceedings during such meetings. Any Remote Member should confirm, prior to participating in any confidential and/or exempt item of business, that they are in a secure private location and that no one else is able to hear the proceedings from the device being used by that Remote Member and that no recording is being made. Any member in remote attendance who failed to disclose that there were in fact persons present who were not so entitled will be in breach of their Code of Conduct responsibilities.
Where Remote Members need to withdraw from the meeting for a confidential discussion, the ‘waiting room’ function may be used and the Members will be moved to that facility by the meeting Host.
Any Remote Member should ensure that all other devices they may be using are switched to silent mode, and that any household “smart” devices (eg Alexa Echo) are switched off and, preferably, unplugged.
Any Remote Member should ensure that no confidential papers are visible in their video feed.
If, during the course of a Meeting, it becomes apparent that a Member is no longer in attendance, the Meeting will be paused for a period of up to ten minutes to re-establish their attendance.
After the ten minute period, if it has not been possible to re-establish the attendance of the particular Member:
- If the Meeting remains quorate, the Meeting continues.
- If the Meeting is inquorate, it will be adjourned until a suitable alternative time.