North Kesteven District Council: Remote meeting motion refused due to change.org signature

North Kesteven District Council’s leader has called a motion urging him to write to government calling on the PM to allow remote meetings a “waste of time” because he has “already signed a petition on change.org”.

The motion was put forward by Lincolnshire Independent Councillor Marianne Overton on Thursday night in a bid to put pressure on MPs to discuss the issue in the House of Commons.

She said temporary relaxations of the rules during the COVID pandemic had been a success for local democracy.

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“The benefits have included increased attendances at remote meetings by both councillors and the public; significant cost savings for some authorities arising from much less travel to meetings; environmental benefits of less travel, particularly in large rural authorities; a better work life balance for councillors… and opening up opportunities for more people to stand for election as councillors,” she said.

The campaign is backed by the Local Government Association and the National Association of Local Councils and has been challenged through the High Court.

However, the government says it would require a change in primary legislation and that there is not sufficient parliamentary time.

NK Administration leader Councillor Richard Wright told members: “This is a waste of time.

“On January 13 all members of the council were informed that I had signed, on behalf of the council, a petition to change.org for the very thing we are talking about.”

He said the LGA backed the approach and that it would have strength in numbers if successful.

However, he said that despite claims from councils that they wanted to progress with the change there were still fewer than 10,000 signatures on the petition.

At the time of writing the petition Councillor Wright referred to had 9,161 signatures.

Councillor Wright said it was “disappointing as a lot of councils have indicated that they allegedly did want to move down this route”.

“But clearly that has not changed into actual signatures on petitions.”

The motion was defeated 12 votes to six with two abstentions.