The City of Edinburgh Council wrote to all Community Councils today with respect to running our meetings online. This is because of the COVID-19 lockdown introduced on 24th March.
In the City Council’s view, there is no requirement for Community Councils to hold our meetings online.
“The recess for all City Council committee business, halting of construction works and inability to carry out many community activities, should mean that Community Councils will have less decisions to make during this time.”
As such, the City Council reassured that Community Councils “would not be penalised under the Scheme for not holding meetings.”
They have chosen to support the decision of “Community Councils who choose not to meet and would go as far as encouraging this.”
“During normal times the Community Councils Scheme does not allow for online meetings.”
“Whilst there is no specific provision which precludes online meetings by name there are a number of provisions which are difficult to adhere to whilst holding a meeting electronically, the most obvious being that it is difficult for members of the public to attend and partake.”
“Additionally those that are not IT literate or do not have access to the correct equipment will be excluded entirely.”
They went on to say it could be argued ‘that holding electronic meetings is not in the spirit of what is intended by the document. See extract from scheme below:”
“Para 9.7 – All meetings of the community council and its committees shall be open to members of the public. Proper provision is to be made for the accommodation of members of the public and the opportunity should be afforded at each meeting to permit members of the public to address the community council under the guidance of the Chairperson.”
“However, for the duration of the lockdown, the City Council is willing to permit requests from Community Councils for online meetings in situations where there is absolute necessity, provided that the following steps are taken:”
- They are notified in advance and informed of what decisions are required to be taken.
- The meeting is announced, publicised and promoted according to current provisions.
- Meetings are conducted using video conferencing application or software that is free and easy to use.
- Members of the public are able to attend the meeting electronically and partake in discussion/questions.
- The meeting continues to be conducted according to standing orders and is recorded and minuted.
- Community Councils do not hold AGMs electronically, as things stand these should be delayed until a degree of normality resumes.
- Any other provisions in the scheme not mentioned above continue to be followed.
- Only urgent decisions that require to be made timeously should be made. All other decisions that can be delayed should be.”
“An alternative approach may be that Community Councils wish to hold regular discussion/engagement online events during the crisis. It should be made clear that these are just discussion meetings and no decisions are to be taken. Such meetings are perhaps a good way of promoting the Community Councils and engaging a new audience.”