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BCP Council one of first to return to in-person meetings with BIC session

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BCP Council became one of the first local authorities in the country to return to in-person meetings.

Temporary legislation brought in to allow remote meetings during the pandemic expired at the end of last week, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

As a result, the planned annual meeting of BCP Council was held face-to-face at the BIC on Tuesday evening.

BCP held its meeting at the BIC
BCP held its meeting at the BIC

Emergency coronavirus legislation was introduced a year ago, early into the pandemic, to allow councillors to meet remotely.

This expired on Friday meaning meetings must be held face-to-face even with social distancing requirements still in place.

A High Court challenge brought by Hertfordshire County Council, Lawyers in Local Government and the Association of Democratic Services Officers had sought to extend the provision but it failed.

Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled that primary legislation was required instead.

The move was described as a “retrograde step” by BCP Council leader councillor Drew Mellor although measures had been put in place for the return of face-to-face meetings.

These were used for the first time at Tuesday’s meeting which was held at the BIC because the council itself had no room big enough to accommodate the full council.

It was livestreamed for the public to watch.

Council chief executive Graham Farrant said the arrangements were ” consistent with our commitment to be a modern, accountable and accessible council”.

“I was very pleased with the way in which the council was able to safely transition back to face-to-face meetings so quickly,” he said.

At the meeting, a Conservative – councillor Nigel Hedges – was voted in as council chairman for the first time.

He replaces Christchurch Independent councillor David Flagg who had held the role since the formation of BCP Council.

Speaking after his appointment, he said he was “honoured” to have been chosen and added that he would work “tirelessly” for the council.

“Having lived in all three towns exclusively for all my life, I fully recognise and accept their unique character and I will continuously do my best for all their residents, establishments and institutions,” he said.

Fellow Conservative Laurence Fear was elected as vice-chairman for a second year.

It was also agreed on Tuesday to rearrange the June full council meeting from the beginning to the end of the month.

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