Pet cats and dogs are being banned from Hastings Borough Council (HBC) meetings as the authority amends its constitution to cope with the demands of running online ‘virtual’ meetings.
“Councillors need to be aware that the cameras give a ‘close up’ view of the
councillor and their surrounding area. So councillors need to keep the area free of their family and pets.” HBC’s cabinet was told when it met on Monday night.
They also need to have their corporate background switched on and wear
headphones. Cabinet members were told that it was likely that training will be needed and councillors should view some of the footage from the virtual meetings to understand what the public is able to see.
The shape of council meets has changed significantly in 2020 as a result of the pandemic with physical meetings at Muriel Matters House having been abandoned.
…more council meetings more accessible to more people.
In a report from Chris Barkshire-Jones, the council’s Chief Legal Officer and Monitoring Officer cabinet members were told: “During the Covid-19 pandemic it has been necessary to adapt our procedures to produce ‘virtual’ meetings to comply with government guidance and regulations.
“We started with regulatory meetings such as Environment and Safety, Licensing and Planning and now have run the full gambit by producing cabinet and full council meetings. To do so officers from Legal, IT and Democratic Services have worked on procedures and guidance to assist participants and have highlighted the need to have some of the constitutional rules tweaked to provide a better framework in order to run the meetings both for the members of the public, officers and councillors.”
Councillor Paul Barnett told the meeting that while he had been initially worried by the introduction of technology he was now comfortable with it and hoped its use would make more council meetings more accessible to more people. He asked if it was possible to provide additional on-screen detail to help viewers, and even councillors, to understand better where they were in the meting and which agenda item was being discussed.
Before being fully adopted the constitutional changes, mainly around the procedures for petitions and public question time, will be discussed at full council when it meets later this month.
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