(1) The General Counsel gave a presentation which can be found on the electronic agenda for this meeting.
(2) The General Counsel said that the operating environment was not currently stable; that KCC was bound by statutory requirements and health and safety obligations; that any future physical meetings (including hybrid) needed to comply with all of the statutory rules around the conduct of meetings; that resources (including staffing resources) were necessitating decisions on priorities; and that KCC was able to run meetings virtually with resources being directed accordingly to ensure their safe and lawful conduct . The current statutory arrangements for virtual meetings are due to expire in May 2021.
(3) The General Counsel then informed the Committee that Home to School Transport Appeals were taking place in conformity with parents’ wishes. They were able to choose whether to have them considered at face-to-face or Virtual hearings. The option of having them considered as a written exercise was also available. Those Panel Members who wished to meet in the same venue in order to consider Virtual Appeals were also able to do so in the Hilton Hotel in Maidstone. This venue had been risk assessed. The risk assessment for County Hall had indicated that holding such meetings there would be problematic.
(3) The Government had very recently published guidance that anyone who was able to work from home should do so. It had also declined to relax the regulations currently in force.
(4) The General Counsel then informed the Committee that consultations with other Local Authorities had established that the vast majority were holding Virtual meetings using Microsoft Teams and Live Events. Some were using other technologies to do so. None of them were planning to hold physical in the immediate future.
(5) The General Counsel recommended that formal meetings should continue to be held virtually until the end of the current year and that arrangements for early 2021 should be considered by the Committee in early December 2020. He added that he was in the process of preparing the Annual Governance Statement and would not be able to give a positive assurance if physical meetings were to be held during this period.
(6) The General Counsel offered to prepare a report which would consider in detail the possibility of holding informal meetings involving small groups of Members. This would include possible small meetings during the budget-setting period in January and February 2021.
(7) The General Counsel said that his next report to the Committee would include arrangements for the Local Government elections in May 2021. He replied to Members’ remarks on this matter by saying that it was currently intended to hold the counts on the Friday after the elections had taken place. Health and Safety arrangements for the count would be set in accordance with government and Electoral Commission guidance. He would also report to the next meeting of the Committee on suggested arrangements for the induction of new Members.
(8) RESOLVED that:-
(a) the report be noted together with the General Counsel’s intended future reports; and
(b) formal meetings continue to be held virtually until the end of the current year with arrangements for early 2021 being considered by the Committee in early December 2020.