19 May 2020

On 24 April 2020, the new Local Authorities (Coronavirus) Meetings (Wales) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/442) (the ‘Regulations’) came into force.

These Regulations are further to the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels Meetings (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/392), which were covered in our previous update, and which affected local authority meetings in England in similar (but not identical) ways to these new Regulations. The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels Meetings (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/392) continue to apply to Police and Crime Panel Meetings in both England and Wales notwithstanding the introduction of these Regulations.

These Regulations were enacted pursuant to section 78 of the new Coronavirus Act 2020 and were published together with a written statement from Julie James AM, the Minister for Housing and Local Government in Wales. Prior to the enactment of the Regulations, the legal position for local authorities in Wales was set out in the Local Government Act 1972 (‘LGA’) and in the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 (the ‘Measure’), and in general terms required physical presence at meetings in order to be able to vote. The Regulations provide for various amendments to be made to the LGA and the Measure until May 2021.

The Regulations apply to meetings of local authorities in Wales, including principal and community councils, their executives, committees and sub-committees, and additional organisations such as port health authorities and fire and rescue authorities. They generally apply to meetings that are held, or are to be held, before 1 May 2021.

In broad terms, the Regulations do the following:

Remote Access at Meetings

Allow members to attend meetings by remote access, by means of ‘any equipment or other facilities which enables persons who are not in the same place to speak to and be heard by each other’. The meeting is not to be limited to a ‘single physical location’ (regulation 5(3)). Note also that it is not necessary for the participants in the meeting to be able to see each other in order for them to participate in the meeting (regulation 5(2)). These changes are by way of amendment to the less flexible pre-existing remote attendance provisions contained in section 4 of the Measure.

Requirements related to Meetings

Allow flexibility in local authorities scheduling the meetings that they are required to conduct, including their annual meetings, with consequential provisions affecting appointments, elections to office and voting. This is done by way of amendment to Schedule 12 of the LGA. It is also required that, where it has not already been already held, a date for the annual meeting of a principal council or a community council must now be fixed by the relevant proper officer (regulations 6 and 7). In respect of meetings held before 1 May 2021, local authorities must publish notice of the time of an intended meeting and how to access it by remote means if it is open to the public (regulation 17).

Public Access Requirements

The Regulations have a significant impact on public access to meetings. They appear to allow local authorities to conduct meetings in private, and without press and public attendance, by default and without passing a resolution to this effect. This is done by way of amendment to Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings Act 1960 (PBA 1960). 

The Regulations also require local authorities to publish various documents relating to meetings on their websites (such as public notice of the meeting, and details of the meeting agenda). This is done by way of amendment to sections 100 and 100A of the LGA.

Further changes

We will continue to monitor any further changes that are announced that affect local government governance and provide updates. If you have any queries on this or local government issues generally, please contact Gary Soloman or Cathryn Tracey.

Key contact

Gary Soloman

Gary Soloman Partner

  • Head of Planning and Compulsory Purchase
  • Regeneration and Highways
  • Compulsory Purchase and Compensation

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