The study found that local councils across England support a return to hybrid meetings, saying it will improve diversity in local government as well as save money.
The District Council Network (CCN) is urging the government to re-allow elected members of local authorities to attend meetings remotely. Virtual meetings were allowed during the pandemic, but the emergency law passed for this has now expired.
The organization, which represents England’s 36 largest county councils and unitary authorities, surveyed nearly 500 board members in conjunction with Zoom Video Conferencing Company and found a strong appetite for choosing between online and face-to-face meetings. Respondents also said allowing permission for virtual meetings could benefit the environment, noting that one board member said he travels 1,000 miles a year to personally attend board meetings.
Overall, 87% of respondents agreed that they would like their council to be able to adopt a hybrid structure in the future, while 72% of respondents from the authorities representing CCN said it could attract more young people, ethnic minorities and women will run in local elections.
Of the board members who had care responsibilities, nine out of ten said the hybrid model would allow them to better balance their role with local government and the rest of life, while eight out of ten without care responsibilities said the hybrid model would provide a better advisor. life balance.
Legislation allowing local authorities to hold virtual meetings was in the Coronavirus Act of 2020, but expired in May 2021. Although the government had previously pledged to reintroduce it, the bill was absent from the Queen’s speech last week outlining an agenda for next year.
Councilor Julian Herman, CCN’s rural spokesman, said: “One of the most defining features of the first closure was the growth of video conferencing, and councils adopted the technology, reversing the way they worked in almost one night, and meetings became virtual. While board members will always need the opportunity to meet, discuss, and consider in person when reflecting on lessons learned over the past two years, there are clear benefits to boards that offer a hybrid model. There is a clear consensus that hybrid meetings can open the door to attracting a younger, more diverse set of advisors who are able to effectively balance their advisory responsibilities with those of care or employment. ”
The CCN poll came months after five other bodies representing the local government published an open letter calling for an urgent resumption of laws allowing remote participation in meetings – the lack of which “brings chaos” to democratic processes, warned they are.