Heather Jameson 28 April 2021

Virtual council meeting challenge dismissed by High Court

Virtual council meeting challenge dismissed by High Court image

Councils will not be able to continue to meet virtually after 6 May after High Court Judges dismissed a legal challenge by local government.

The Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO), Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) and Hertfordshire CC launched a judicial review after the Government refused to extend emergency legislation to allow virtual meetings beyond the 6 May deadline.

In a hearing last week, they argued councils could use existing powers to meet remotely. It would remove the need for primary legislation, which the Government claims is not possible.

However, judges have now ruled a ‘physical presence’ is needed for remote meetings under existing legislation. They claimed: ‘The decision whether to permit some or all local authority meetings to be conducted remotely… involves difficult policy choices on which there is likely to be a range of competing views.’

Those decision, they concluded, ‘are for Parliament, not the courts’.

ADSO chair, John Austin, said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the judgement. The situation Councils now find themselves in is untenable and I call on the Secretary of State to back up his support for our claim and legislate quickly, as Governments have in Wales and Scotland,’ he said.

President of LLG, Quentin Baker, added: ‘I’m confident that we have paved the way for Government to legislate and LLG will be working closely with ADSO to assist the secretary of state to deliver that outcome.’

Local Government Association chairman, Cllr James Jamieson, also voiced his disappointment. ‘Councils by law, have to hold annual meetings within 21 days following local elections, so many will now have to use very large external venues to allow all members of the council to meet in person,’ he said.

Even communities secretary Robert Jenrick has publicly announced he is in favour of virtual meetings, despite the Government’s claim there is no room for primary legislation.

LLG and ADSO have vowed to continue to lobby for legislation to be brought forward quickly to amend the rules and allow councils to meet virtually.

There is currently a government consultation on the issue underway.

Jackie Weaver makes the case for virtual meetings

SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Senior Lawyer (Safeguarding Children)

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£45834 - £48819 per annum
Are you an experienced childcare Lawyer with local government experience and looking for variety and challenge?The jobGreenwich Legal Services is comm England, London, Woolwich
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Lawyer (Planning & Highways)

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£40869 - £43860 per annum
Are you a Planning & Highways Lawyer with local government experience and looking for variety and challenge?The jobGreenwich Legal Services is committ England, London, Woolwich
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Regeneration Projects Manager

South Gloucestershire Council
£47,778 - £52,120
This is an exciting opportunity to lead comprehensive town centre regeneration programmes, specifically for... Gloucestershire
Recuriter: South Gloucestershire Council

Senior Lawyer, Regeneration & Property

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£45834 - £48819 per annum
Are you a Senior Regeneration & Property Lawyer with local government experience and looking for variety and challenge?Royal Greenwich is proud to be England, London, Woolwich
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Job Evaluation & Research Officer

Birmingham City Council
£27,741 - £34,728
2 x Job Evaluation & Research Officers will be supporting the Senior Job Evaluation & Research Officer and Reward & Recognition Manager. Birmingham, West Midlands
Recuriter: Birmingham City Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue