A community venue in Stafford which will allow for social distancing has been chosen to host a face to face annual meeting of the county council.
The meeting on 20 May 2021, which would normally be held in the Council Chamber at County Buildings, will now be held at Rising Brook Community Church in Stafford. The venue is large enough to accommodate all 62 councillors while allowing for social distancing. The meeting will also be webcast live, allowing members of the public to follow proceedings.
Local councils have been able to hold public meetings virtually since the Government relaxed legal requirements for them to be held in person from 4 April 2020. However, in line with the gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions the Government is asking councils to re-introduce face-to-face council meetings.
During the pandemic, the county council moved to holding all its meetings virtually and in line with guidance to help reduce the spread of Covid-19, with all public meetings being webcast live.
Staff and local councillors were quickly trained on the use of Microsoft Teams as meetings moved online. Additional procedures for managing the virtual meetings were also introduced.
John Henderson, Chief Executive at Staffordshire County Council said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented us all with huge challenges but by using the latest smart technology, we’ve been able to continue with vital council business, whilst also allowing for social distancing.
“County Councillors provide the bridge between the local community and the council and it’s really important that decisions taken are transparent and that the council is held to account. This was particularly important during the pandemic, when we saw the council having to respond, react and make decisions much more quickly in an ever-changing situation.
“As a county council, we took the decision a number of years ago to invest in and make better use of new technologies and remote working. So when the pandemic hit, we were in a strong position to be able to quickly adapt to the new way of working.
“As restrictions start to ease, we will be looking to gradually return to more face-to-face meetings but our priority will be to ensure that everyone is kept safe. We do work closely with the voluntary sector and it’s great that we can call upon community organisations such as Rising Brook to help ensure we can continue to serve the people of Staffordshire and keep the wheels of democracy turning.”