The Association of Democratic Services Officers and Lawyers in Local Government, along with Hertfordshire County Council, have this week issued proceedings in the High Court seeking a declaratory judgement to enable remote meetings of local authorities to continue to take place within existing legislation beyond 6 May 2021.
The Government last year enacted emergency powers under the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 to expressly allow council meetings to be held remotely. However, such powers will end on 6 May 2021 and have not been extended.
The organisations contend that the pre-existing legislation governing local authority meetings under Schedule 12 of the Local Government 1972 Act, and meetings of an executive or a committee of an executive under the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012, already enable local authorities to hold meetings remotely and are seeking a confirmatory declaration to that effect.
The claim includes an application for the Court to expedite proceedings to ensure a decision is made before the deadline.