BOTH of Melksham’s councils are returning to face-to-face meetings after a over a year of meeting online.
But the general public will still be able to observe the debates in the council chambers from the comfort of their own home – with both Melksham Town Council and Melksham Without Parish Council planning to continue live-stream meetings.
The councils have told Melksham News that hosting meetings online has helped increase engagement with the public – which they are both keen to maintain and build on.
Councils across the country have been forced to return to meeting in-person after the government chose not to extend legislation, introduced at the start of the pandemic, to allow them to meet virtually. A recent challenge in the High Court also failed to get the law extended. Both Melksham councils have said that they were “disappointed” by the decision.
“The news was disappointing and a step backwards for democracy,” said Melksham Town council’s clerk, Linda Roberts. “Across the country councils have had much more engagement from the public because of online meetings. It has not affected democracy at all rather enhanced it. We are back to 1972 legislation which takes no account of the modern world.
“Luckily the council have sourced a means to allow for live streaming of all meetings and this means we can facilitate hybrid meetings where the public can join online.
“The sector will be pressing government to review the outdated legislation town and parish councils are forced to follow which is in direct contradiction to the current Covid-19 advice about staying safe.”
Clerk for Melksham Without Parish Council, Teresa Strange, said, “There is a feeling of disappointment/frustration that the ability to hold remote or hybrid meetings is not in place until the government’s Covid restrictions have been fully lifted.
“The members’ preference would have been for this to have continued until after the summer, or at least 21st June; to accommodate those members of the council, staff and public that have not yet had their vaccinations.
“The parish council has live streamed its meetings on YouTube for the last year, and this has been successful, particularly as they are left for viewing on the YouTube channel for the weeks following the meeting until the minutes of the meeting have been approved.
“The parish council are keen to retain this facility, but at this stage do not wish to commit to purchasing audio-visual equipment until they move into their permanent meeting and office suite in the Melksham Campus; as it will be part of the fit out and is being planned into the new scheme for occupation next year.
“Therefore, the parish council will use the Zoom recording to live-stream on YouTube, as it has done over the last year.”