Alnwick councillors voice concern at resumption of face-to-face meetings

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Alnwick town councillors have expressed concern about the resumption of face-to-face meetings.

Many councils have been holding Zoom meetings or using other online platforms to conduct business during the Covid-19 pandemic but they will not be allowed to do so after May 7.

Clerk Peter Hately said: “This is something that has been opposed by NALC (National Association of Local Councils) and the SLCC (Society of Local Council Clerks) who have been lobbying the Government for an extension to that date but it doesn’t look like they are going to do so."

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He said this presented a conundrum as some councillors and officers may not be comfortable with the idea of restarting indoor meetings.

Alnwick Town Council holds its meetings at the St James's Church Centre.Alnwick Town Council holds its meetings at the St James's Church Centre.
Alnwick Town Council holds its meetings at the St James's Church Centre.

Cllr Alan Symmonds said: "I regard this as an absolute nonsense. I’m not clear on why we can’t have meetings on Zoom. I think all of us, as councillors, are looking forward to the time we are back in St James’s hall but is this big brother deciding that one size must fit all?

“It’s been proved over the past year that if you allow decision making to be at local level then it is much more successful. You could make this edict and there could be a spike in one part of the country. That means people need to be left to manage the situation in a way that best fits what is good for them and the community.”

Councillors were told the council is legally obliged to hold an annual meeting and this has been scheduled for May 20 at the St James’s Centre on Pottergate.

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Cllr Linda Wood-Mitchell said: “I find the situation quite discriminatory. I would think the majority of us aren’t happy with it and I certainly won’t be attending.”

Cllr Martin Swinbank added: “It’s sub-optimal from a democratic point of view because it’s going to put pressure on councillors to potentially do something they’re really not comfortable with.”

A suggestion of outdoor meetings met with a mixed response.

Cllr Geoff Watson felt face-to-face meetings could resume with safely protocols in place but would have preferred to wait until mid-summer.

The next scheduled full council meeting is on June 11. It was agreed that the clerk could use powers of urgency in consultation with committee chairmen in the interim period.

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