Windsor and Maidenhead council to 'trial' Zoom at in-person meeting next week

The Royal Borough has said that it will ‘trial’ Zoom at the first face-to-face council meeting, which is scheduled for Monday.

For the duration of the pandemic, the council has livestreamed its meetings on its YouTube channel as legislation was passed to allow local authorities to meet remotely.

However the Government says that regulations which have allowed councils to meet like this do not apply to meetings after May 6, which was last week.

A High Court ruling earlier this month called for local councils to revert back to face-to-face meetings after this date.

When initially contacted by the Advertiser, a Royal Borough spokesman said that it did not have the 'audio-visual capability' to broadcast meetings that are in person.

This raised concerns over the open access of meetings, with Councillor Ross McWilliams (Con, Cox Green), the council’s lead member for engagement, saying that not having something in place to view in-person meetings ‘doesn’t cut the mustard’.

“Let’s see what temporary measures we can use until long-term solution can be agreed. Hopefully [Government] will see sense [and] permit virtual meetings again too,” he added on Twitter.

Pre-pandemic, the Windsor and Maidenhead council used a system called Periscope to broadcast meetings, but this was criticised for its sound quality.

In an updated statement, the Royal Borough’s spokesman said that the council will be trialling Zoom at the first in-person meeting next week; an audit and governance committee.

He added that the authority was ‘looking into longer-term solutions’, and that people would be socially-distanced at meetings.

External venues would be used for larger meetings, such as the planning panel on Wednesday, which is due to take place at Maidenhead’s Holiday Inn.

The spokesman said: “Public seating will be socially distanced and the number of seats will depend on the layout of the room [and] size of the committee. For larger meetings with significant public interest we are using external venues.

“Only people who wish to register as a public speaker have to do so in advance. There is also a QR code at reception in the [Maidenhead] Town Hall and at York House [Windsor], and people will be encouraged to scan the code when attending a meeting.

“Everyone attending will be asked to wear a face covering (unless exempt) until seated at the meeting. All desks and seating will be socially-distanced.

“People will be advised to stay at home if they have any symptoms as per Government advice.”

The spokesman added that people attending meetings in-person ‘will not be required to take a lateral flow test’ beforehand, but are ‘encouraged to do so’.

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