Public and press remain banned from meetings

By Chris Betteley   |   Reporter   |
Saturday 4th June 2022 12:33 pm
@ChrisABetteley
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Members of the public and press will still not be be able to attend meetings in person at the council offices at Penmorfa

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PUBLIC and press will still not be allowed to attend meetings at the Ceredigion County Council building in Aberaeron, despite the low number of coronavirus cases in the county.

Introduced in the wake of the pandemic following lockdowns along with the establishment of the controversial Gold Command structure, meetings were moved online and streamed on Facebook to allow members of the public and press to be able to view them and allow councillors to meet to discuss issues while coronvairus remained prevalent.

More than two years since the first coronavirus lockdown however, Ceredigion council is still not allowing press and public to attend in person at its offices in Penmorfa, despite other local authorities in Wales now allowing it as the country sheds most Covid-19 restrictions.

The new-look council - following the elections in early May - held its first meetings in late May, with all agendas stating that “due to Covid-19 and the health and safety of councillors and staff, members of the public and the press cannot attend the meeting in person.”

Councillors and staff were able to attend the meetings but had the option to access them remotely as the hybrid model of meetings continues.

Ceredigion council told the Cambrian News: “Covid-19 levels in Ceredigion remain high, and in order to do what is possible to keep councillors and staff

safe we are asking that members of the public and the press view council meetings on the council’s Facebook page for the time being.”

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said that the way meetings are conducted is left to individual councils.

“The arrangements regarding access to ‘face-to-face’ or hybrid meetings is a matter for councils to determine in line with guidance and local circumstances,” a WLGA spokesperson told the Cambrian News.

“Although many council meetings will return to ‘face-to-face’ proceedings following the pandemic, some meetings are likely to be hybrid and some may remain virtual given the increased accessibility and flexibility of technology. “Members of the press and public will however continue to be able to observe face-to-face, hybrid or remote meetings as council meetings will continue to be streamed live or recorded.”

In March, councillors from the previous Democratic Services Committee heard that hybrid meetings “will become the norm in Ceredigion council” with the technology for the new councillors following May’s elections put in place.

While the plan was supported with a reduction in “unnecessary” travel time and expense for some councillors instead of attending in person, no mention was made of what that approach meant for the ability of the public and press to attend meetings in person.

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