That view has been further reinforced with a letter which has been sent by Luke Hall MP, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, which orders Councils to hold meetings in person and to discontinue virtual meetings such as Zoom. Such is the high level of concern, there was cross party support for a letter to be sent by the Leader of East Devon District Council, Cllr. Paul Arnott, to the Minister asking for the Government to reconsider its decision, giving a whole list of reasons for that request.
One of these reasons is that the rule of six people meeting is not scheduled to be lifted until 21st June, yet we are being told that we have to personally attend meetings from 6th May! So effectively, we would be breaking the Government’s own law! Yet a further example if one is needed of the woefully inept handling of the whole sorry Covid crisis.
Many people have adapted to different ways of working, particularly with virtual meetings, and in many instances, productivity has increased, that is certainly so in my case, I have been busier than ever. It also saves travelling times, 35-40 minutes driving across the commons to and from the Honiton HQ, often late at night, so is environmentally friendly, helping us to get closer to our carbon neutral footprint. Working from home also saves thousands of pounds in mileage claims, and although some of us used to car-share, we would now have to travel individually, thereby increasing the costs.
Blackdown House HQ would also be highly unsuitable as a meeting venue, we are packed at Full Council meetings elbow to elbow, so would need to hire a much larger venue such as Westpoint. Some Councillors and many Officers will not have been vaccinated, so they would be at risk of contracting Covid. We would all have to wear face coverings, and for those with hearing difficulties, that would present further problems.
Thankfully, Lawyers in Local Government, the Association of Democratic Officers and Hertfordshire County Council have challenged the diktat through the courts, and a Hearing has been listed for 21st April. Let us hope that the judges who will hear that case will make a common sense judgement which this Government seems incapable of delivering in its pursuit of saving the economy over the lives of its subjects.