ABC Council's Craigavon headquarters
FOUR months after Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough last held a remote committee meeting, the council has welcomed the introduction of new legislation allowing for the practice to resume.
In May, following the expiration of time-bound legislation permitting remote attendance at council meetings, the local authority took the decision to hold working groups instead of committee meetings.
Every committee meeting, with the exception of the planning committee, saw members take part part in private working groups to discuss council business.
Any decision reached at these working groups required unanimous support before the outcome was adopted by the council with the organisation’s Chief Executive, Roger Wilson, signing off on them through powers given to him under delegated authority.
Now, with the new legislation in place, these remote meetings can resume.
“Council welcomes the legislation enabling remote meetings, which received Royal Assent on August 26, 2021, coming into operation on 27 August 2021 so remote committee meetings are once again legal,” said a council spokesperson.
“Permission was given by Council in April that should Council be advised that the remote legislation be extended, meetings would revert back to the previous arrangements for Council and Committee meetings.
“Therefore, as was the case prior to May 6, 2021, remote committee meetings will now resume, replacing the planned remote working group meetings in September.
“The meetings will once again be live streamed to allow for public access.”
The legislation has also been welcomed by the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) with its President, Councillor Robert Burgess, describing it as a “welcome and significant step”.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented serious challenges for our local councils, both financially and resourcefully,” he said.
“This is a necessary step that will allow local government, elected members and council officers to continue carrying out essential business for their constituents and communities.
“Councils have worked diligently throughout the last 18 months to continue providing core services and to host meetings in alternative ways like virtually and, increasingly, in hybrid form.”
He continued: “This has served councils well and local government has proven its flexibility and responsiveness throughout the pandemic.
“This new legislation will provide certainty to councils, councillors, council officers and ratepayers for the foreseeable future and ensure that democratic decision making is preserved well into 2022.”