EHDC prepares for virtual meetings

Thursday, 14 May, 2020

East Hampshire Council will be holding virtual council meetings this month to give residents the opportunity to follow council decisions during the coronavirus outbreak.

The council stopped holding public meetings when the Government announced the lockdown on 23 March but continued its operations using emergency powers allowing the council Leader authority to make executive decisions.

The first online meeting will be of the Planning Committee, held on Thursday 21 May using the conference system Skype.

The decision has already been taken to suspend the Annual Council meeting, which normally sees councillors appointed to roles and committees and includes the election of a new Chairman. Councillors will continue in their current roles until the Annual Council meeting can be held.

Cllr Richard Millard, the Leader of East Hampshire District Council, said: “During the coronavirus outbreak it has been much harder for the council to continue its normal business. We have obviously had to suspend public meetings and many of our staff have moved from their normal, day-to-day roles to help out with our work to support vulnerable local people.

“We have still managed to keep our normal business running as smoothly as possible, but it is a key pillar of local government that the decisions are scrutinised by the general public.

“As a result, we will soon be holding our first online meetings, which will give the public the opportunity to ‘attend’ the meeting and follow the decision-making process.

“These virtual meetings will give the public a chance to hear the debate and follow the decisions being made.”

East Hampshire District Council’s constitution gives the Leader, Cllr Richard Millard, and his Cabinet, authority to make executive decisions as required.

These decisions are also subject to the same ‘call-in’ process and can be challenged through the council’s scrutiny process.

Digital meetings are now possible after changes to the law allowed councillors to take part in meetings and vote on decisions without physically being present.

Planning applications that can be determined by officers are still going ahead as normal, but larger applications, that would normally go to committee for debate and decision, are being held back for the virtual meetings.