Venue quandary for Mid Sussex District Council as virtual meetings end
A High Court ruling that virtual council meetings cannot continue after May 6 without a change to the law could end up costing Mid Sussex District Council money.
When the pandemic hit, the government introduced temporary legislation to allow meetings to be held online, in line with social distancing regulations.
But the decision not to extend the rules until the pandemic ends means councils all over the country will have to find ways to continue their meetings in public while also keeping councillors, staff and the public safe.
The council chamber at Oaklands, in Haywards Heath, is already something of a tight squeeze, meaning holding larger meetings there will be nigh on impossible.
As such, with Covid restrictions still in place, the council could have to fork out for a larger venue to make sure social distancing rules are followed.
Tom Clark, head of regulatory services, said the council was ‘disappointed’ by the High Court’s decision.
He said: “We found the virtual meetings worked well and enabled more people to view the meetings from their home.
“Looking forward, we will ensure that all council meeting that take place in person are compliant with the latest Covid-19 restrictions and we hope to be able to host the majority in our own council chamber from June 21.
“However, meetings of full council are likely to require a larger venue if social distancing requirements must be met, which will involve additional expenditure – and the level of public attendance is also likely to be limited by the need for social distancing.”