Local government lawyers have been told to prepare for the loss of virtual meetings despite an imminent High Court hearing that will determine if they can continue to hold meetings remotely.

Council leaders were informed by the government last week that emergency coronavirus legislation to enable remote meetings to continue after 6 May would not be brought forward.

Online meeting

Judges will decide if local authorities can continue to hold meetings remotely

Source: iStock

Lawyers in Local Government, the Association of Democratic Services Officers and Hertfordshire County Council have asked the High Court to make a declaration on whether they can continue to hold meetings remotely past 6 May.

Lawyers in Local Government confirmed that the hearing will take place on 21 April.

Helen McGrath, head of public affairs at Lawyers in Local Government, said: ‘We will report as soon as practicable following the hearing and indeed, circulate the judgment once received. In the meantime, we are urging councils, despite our optimism, to continue to make preparations for the loss of virtual meetings from 7 May onwards.’

Some local authorities ‘have already reported moving their AGM to before the cut-off date to ensure they do not run into difficulties’, McGrath added.

The government has issued a call for evidence on current arrangements. Any changes to legislation made as a result of the call to evidence will apply to England only. The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021, which comes into force on 1 May, makes express provision for Welsh local authorities to meet remotely.