Opposition leaders call for end to Notts Council face-to-face meetings
Concerns over the Omicron Covid variant have led opposition leaders at Nottinghamshire Council to call for an end to face-to-face meetings.
Coun Jason Zadrozny, member for Ashfields and also Ashfield Council leader, and Coun Kate Foale have urged the Government to rethink rules stopping councils from holding major meetings virtually.
Local authorities had moved all meetings online at the start of the Covid pandemic, and this continued until after the local elections last May, when face-to-face meetings were brought back by law.
However, a surge in cases of the new variant has caused infection rates to spike across Nottinghamshire – with some councillors now isolating and missing meetings.
Coun Zadrozny has written to Coun Ben Bradley, council leader, member for Mansfield North and Mansfield MP, asking him to use his dual role of council leader and MP to urge the Government to bring forward new legislation.
It comes as one Independent councillor missed Tuesday’s health scrutiny committee after testing positive for Covid.
Coun Zadrozny said: “The absurdity of holding face-to-face meetings has become even more apparent as Covid cases rise.
“We have councillors with serious underlying health concerns having sleepless nights about sitting in County Hall like sardines.”
Ashfield Council is also reviewing its meeting protocol and plans to hold all overview and scrutiny meetings virtually – which is unlawful under current Government rules.
Coun Foale, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said: “The Government ought to be revisiting the legislation, we shouldn’t be having face-to-face meetings in that chamber.”
All 14 meetings scheduled to be held at County Hall this month will take place face-to-face, unless the Government moves to change legislation.
Coun Bradley said: “It’s the Government who need to decide on this, not us.
“We’re legally obliged to have meetings in person and, until Government tell us otherwise, that’s our obligation.”
A council spokesman said: “There are regular health and safety measures undertaken in the chamber, but mandatory guidelines mean meetings must be in person.”
A Government spokesman said there are a ‘range of options’ for councils to take in order to make meetings Covid-safe.
They said: “The Government will work closely with councils and representatives to ensure they understand and are aware of the full range of options available to them to minimise risks and concerns.”