South and Vale to begin online council meetings
South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are to begin holding council committee meetings online via video conferencing from the end of May.
The first virtual meetings will be:
- Vale Planning Committee - Tuesday 26 May at 10.30am
- South Planning Committee - Thursday 28 May at 4.30pm
Councillors will use Microsoft Teams to take part in the meetings and members of the public will be able to watch online via a link which will be published alongside the meeting agenda on the councils’ websites five days prior to the meeting. The councils will also publish the link to each meeting via their Facebook and Twitter pages.
Once councillors and officers have got used to the new process and are confident that meetings can be carried out effectively and within the guidelines, the councils will look to introduce online public participation by live video.
Following the COVID-19 outbreak and the introduction of social distancing rules in March, the two councils cancelled all their official meetings and acted quickly to focus their efforts on supporting local communities and vulnerable individuals. They were also among the first councils to move the vast majority of their staff to home working meaning that they could continue operating almost all of their services without disruption.
While the focus remains predominantly on supporting vulnerable residents affected by COVID-19, it is still important to ensure the transparency of local democracy and so the councils have now put in place measures to ensure that meetings can take place again.
Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader and Cabinet Member for Democratic Services at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “With the introduction of social distancing rules and the need to change our working arrangements at very short notice, we decided to put a pause on holding council meetings. This helped to ensure that we could put all our focus on providing vital support for our residents. However, as elected officials it’s very important that we uphold the democratic process and be seen to be transparent in our decision making, so it’s a very positive step that we can now hold meetings again.”
Cllr Neil Fawcett, Cabinet Member for Democratic Services at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “I am very pleased that we can begin holding meetings again, albeit in a new online environment using video conferencing. With meetings now available for everyone to view online it will be a great opportunity for people to get a better understanding of how important decisions are made and to also get more involved in the process.”