Meetings of Salford and other local councils in England must no longer take place online following the May 6 elections, the High Court has ruled.
Salford City Council moved its meetings online due to the first wave of Covid-19 in Spring 2020, allowing usual business to be conducted despite lockdown restrictions. However, the new cohort of councillors elected next Thursday will be forced to meet in person.
The decision will not affect residents’ ability to livestream council meetings.
Cllr Mike McCusker (Lab, Eccles) is disappointed by this move, and said: “One of the things [online meetings] have done is to increase participation.
“We feel it’s enabled more people to get access to decision makers and the democratic process.
“We have concerns about how we’re going to continue that in a safe way.”
The move has been criticised by local democratic institutions up and down the country, including the Local Government Association.
An LGA statement said: “It is very disappointing that this last avenue to allow councils to hold online and hybrid meetings whilst Covid-19 restrictions are still in force has not been successful.
“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.”
There is an effort to overturn this decision however, with Cllr McCusker adding: “We have asked the three MPs who cover Salford to press the government to bring forward primary legislation to extend the ability of local councils to hold meetings remotely.”
Cllr McCusker will contest the ward of Eccles on May 6. The other candidates for the ward are as follows:
- Sharmina August (Lab)
- David Cawdrey (Con)
- Karl Craig (Con)
- Sally Griffiths (TUSC)
- Clive Hamilton (Green)
- Donna-Marree Humphery (Women’s Equality)
- Alima Hussain (Con)
- John McLellan (Lib)
- Nathaniel Tetteh (Lab)