Virtual meetings have saved Nottinghamshire County Council £47,000

Nottinghamshire County Council saved £47,000 in councillors’ travel claims by holding virtual meetings during the pandemic.

By John Smith
Thursday, 17th June 2021, 2:46 pm

In March last year, the Government’s Coronavirus Act 2020 meant that councils were mandated to hold meetings online and this latest savings figure was revealed at the latest meeting of the council’s policy committee.

In 2018-19, councillors in Nottinghamshire submitted expense claims for £58,447.90, while in 2019-20 they claimed £55,158.55.

But claims were only submitted by councillors for £7,385.80 for April 2020 to April 2021.

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Holding virtual meetings during the pandemic has saved the council thousands

Coun Jason Zadrozny leader of the Ashfield Independents group, said: “Regulations allowing remote meetings, which were introduced by the government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, came to an end on May 6.

"Improving access to the public meetings is something that Independents have long campaigned for.

"Covid forced the council’s hand and I would welcome introduction of more remote meetings moving forward.

"Not only did remote meetings save the council tax money but also reduced the council’s carbon footprint.

"I would welcome the legislation changing to allow councils like Ashfield and Nottinghamshire to choose which meetings could be held online in the future.

“I back a hybrid meeting with councillors having the option of attending meetings in person but others being allowed to contribute online.”

One councillor said that he faces a four-hour round trip on public transport to attend meetings.

Another spoke about how they spent more time travelling to meetings than actually attending them.

Coun Helen-Ann Smith (Ash Ind), who represents Skegby, Stanton Hill, Sutton and Teversal, also warned of continued health concerns with Covid.

She said: “Recent news that after a councillor in London has quit her council after 35 years rather than have to meet in huge groups is a cause for concern.

"Covid-19 is a continued worry for many and that’s why I back giving councils having hybrid meetings.

"The House of Commons has been doing this for months and a councillor can be just as effective online as in person.”

Earlier this year, there was an unsuccessful judicial review brought by the Association of Democratic Services Officers, lawyers in local government and Hertfordshire County Council after the Government refused to extend emergency legislation to allow virtual meetings beyond the May 6 deadline.

The Government is now carrying out a consultation with all authorities in the country.