Council meeting to take place in Temple Park leisure centre to help with social distancing
South Tyneside Council is preparing to hold its first socially distanced borough council meeting – the first ‘in-person’ democratic meeting in more than a year.
The council’s annual meeting is planned for Tuesday May 18 at Temple Park Leisure Centre at 6pm to allow for Covid-secure measures.
Under law, the council must hold the annual meeting between eight and 21 days after the retirement of councillors in an election year.
Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government temporarily removed the legal requirement for local authorities to hold meetings in person.
South Tyneside Council, like many local authorities, made the move to virtual meetings using video conferencing technology which allowed business to continue and members of the public to watch proceedings from home.
As powers for councils to hold remote meetings as part of the Coronavirus Act are expected to lapse on May 7, council officials have been planning a return to in-person meetings once again.
George Mansbridge, interim head of paid service on the council, said: “This year has been extremely challenging for councils, with the focus on protecting the most vulnerable and keeping communities as safe as possible while ensuring that vital services continue to run.
“During this time, we have embraced democracy in a Covid-secure way.
“We’ve put the infrastructure and technology in place so that elected members can attend the [annual] council meeting in person and residents can either physically attend the meeting at Temple Park or access the meeting remotely through the council’s website.
“Whilst a meeting with so many people provides challenges, we have undertaken meticulous planning and are determined to deliver it in a Covid- secure way.
“We have also taken measures to ensure that the meeting will still be streamed online, so that those who wish to stay at home can still engage with democracy.”
The annual meeting will be streamed live on the council’s YouTube channel and members of the public can watch the meeting of borough council by visiting: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/watchcouncilmeetings
Any member of the public wishing to attend the meeting in person can apply to do so by registering their details via Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/annual-council-meeting-tickets-152844894193
Due to social-distancing measures, spaces for public attendance are strictly limited to 60 and so registration is essential to secure a place.
Everyone who attends the meeting of borough council will be required to wear a face covering, unless exempt.
Council staff and elected members will also be required to take a lateral flow test the day before the meeting.
Members of the public are urged to take advantage of the national ‘next step safely’ campaign and access free, rapid lateral flow tests for themselves in advance https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing
Whilst this is advised, it is not a requirement for entry for members of the public.
Anyone displaying Covid-19 symptoms is asked not to attend on the night but instead to watch via the live stream accessed via the council’s website.
The annual meeting involves all 54 elected councillors, council officers and usually includes the ceremonial ‘Mayor making’.
Whilst the Mayor making will still take place, the ceremonial element has been postponed until a later date which will be announced in advance.