THE COUNCIL has asked the government to allow the reintroduction of remote meetings due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Brighton and Hove City Council leader Phelim Mac Cafferty and Labour leader Carmen Appich have sent a joint letter pleading with the government to bring forward “emergency legislation” in a “logical” move as Covid cases rise.

They say the letter is a recognition of the “gravity of the situation” and that remote meetings are the safest option as Brighton faces “potentially the most dangerous point in the pandemic”.

The letter states that current rules on meetings is forcing the council to take “unnecessary and avoidable risks” to people’s health and safety.

But Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth accused of the Greens of “wriggling” out of meeting in person and claimed it is a “slap in the face” for people in the city.

The last full council meeting, which was supposed to be held on December 16, was cancelled because the council said it wanted to listen to government advice by “reducing contact with others before Christmas”.

Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty said: “With the Omicron variant spreading so quickly, we believe it is essential for our council and those across councils in England to be able to meet remotely. In every other industry this has been a logical response to the pandemic.

“Councils in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already been given permission for this. Workers across the country are being advised to work at home if possible.

The Argus: A joint letter was sent to the government today asking for legislation to allow virtual meetings againA joint letter was sent to the government today asking for legislation to allow virtual meetings again

“Brighton and Hove has been recording its highest numbers of Covid cases so far. We are at potentially the most dangerous point in the pandemic.

“As such we are appealing to the government to pass the legislation required to enable us to conduct council meetings in the safest way possible as well.”

The council argues that The Local Government Act 1972, which requires members of local authorities in England to attend full council meetings in person, rules out modern means of conducting meetings, such as virtually.

Temporary measures which allowed local councils to meet virtually ended in May of this year. The council has pointed towards legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which allow virtual meetings.

Cllr Nemeth claims the administration “doesn’t want to face the public”.

He said: “With so many council services still not operating, it does seem somewhat of a cheek that the main priority of the council presently is wriggling out of meeting up to deal with the many important issues of the day.

“More time has now been spent talking about meetings than has been spent actually meeting. No proper full council meeting has been held since July which is a real slap in the face for residents wishing to see the democratic process handled appropriately.

“With so many things going wrong here, I can see why the Labour-Green administration doesn’t want to face the public.”

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