Dorset Council could hold 'virtual meetings'

Dorset Council could hold 'virtual meetings'

Published by Maria Greenwood at 9:21am 18th March 2020.

Many Dorset Council staff are now working from home – following Government advice.

The authority says that it is awaiting further guidance but is planning for some committee meetings, normally open to the public, to take place online.

Two meetings this week have already been postponed or cancelled.

office worker writing

The only meeting now left in the diary for in the coming days is the area planning committee which at the moment is still scheduled for South Walks House in Dorchester on Thursday afternoon.

It includes a controversial application for homes on a council-owned site between Spa Road and Roman Road in Weymouth and  another application for homes on a site at Chickerell originally set aside for a new GP surgery.

At the time of writing (Tuesday) only one councillors is listed in the attendance sheet as apologising for non-attendance.

Dorset Council meeting Nov 21 2019

All of next week’s meetings are still scheduled to take place, apart from Wednesday’s health and wellbeing committee which has been cancelled.

Said a council spokesman:

"We are expecting guidance to emerge soon that will allow meetings to be held virtually, therefore at present our plan is to cancel all non-essential meetings (such as advisory panels). Current committee meetings such as Planning, Cabinet and Audit will be moved to virtual meetings.

"As the public have been asked to put social distancing in place we would not expect a huge attendance. We will rapidly give some thought as to how the public can engage with the authority, but for a time it may not be possible.

"As we receive further clarity about the process we will let everyone know."

Office Computer Business

The expected legislation may also allow the council to carry out business with a smaller number of councillors present than normal.

At the moment each committee has to have a set minimum number, before it can legally take place.

The council say that an email went out to staff on Tuesday asking all those who could work from home, to do so, in line with Government guidance.

A spokesman said:

"At this early stage we’re unable to state how many employees this includes as we’re focusing on ensuring we are set up to deliver essential services without disruption, regardless of where officers are working from.

"We will continue to closely monitor service delivery performance to ensure that the shift in workplace doesn’t unnecessarily impact productivity."

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter