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“Historic issues” preventing community councils meeting online are set to be rectified.

Councillors have agreed to review South Lanarkshire’s scheme for community councils with a view to modernising the regulations around meetings.

Since the coronavirus lockdown was enforced in March, community councils in the region have been unable to meet as a result of restrictions on gatherings.

Informal online and phone meetings have been held by the region’s community councils with office bearers using their delegated powers outwith these to ensure they are still able to function.

Head of administration and legal services, Geraldine McCann, told councillors at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, September 23, that the scheme hadn’t been fully reviewed for six years.

She said that clause 11 of the scheme “did mean that community councils could not hold online or hybrid meetings as the council have been able to”.

Ms McCann said that clause 11 “requires all meetings to be held in public” and that members of the press and public “must be able to be physically present”.

Community councils in other local authority areas have been able to meet online but “historic issues” in South Lanarkshire meant the scheme had been set up in a way preventing online and hybrid meetings.

The proposed revisions would allow all or some of the members of the community council, press and public to attend a meeting using remote access and suspend the requirement for the public to be able to physically attend any meetings.

Council leader John Ross (Hamilton South) welcomed the review, adding: “Community councils have a hugely important role.

“Coronavirus has highlighted failings in the current scheme.”

Conservative group leader Cllr Alex Allison (Clydesdale East) also welcomed the review but highlighted that not all community councils have the capacity to hold remote meetings.

He said: “Even if this went through, some community councils won’t be able to use it.

“There is still a need for a physical aspect to all meetings when Covid requirements permit.

“In the rural area, many don’t have the broadband speeds to support [remote meetings].

“We also need to look at if there are any extra costs for community councils.”

Community councils can use their annual administration grants to buy hardware and licence software to enable remote meetings to take place.

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The changes can’t be implemented for at least eight weeks as current legislation – set out in 1973 – requires an eight-week public consultation to take place.

After that, any changes would need to be backed by two-thirds of councillors at the next meeting of the council.

If any amendments to the proposals were put forward at that point, the process would be required to restart with a further eight-week consultation.

www.dailyrecord.co.uk

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