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Hampshire County Council meetings accused of being 'superspreader events'

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THE leader of Hampshire County Council has promised "every precaution is being taken" to make meetings Covid-safe after they were accused of becoming "superspreader events".

Cllr Keith Mans, who represents Brockenhurst, defended HCC's operations after a call was made for meetings to be taken online, writes David George of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

As Covid-19 cases rise across the UK, government guidance is for everyone to work from home, if possible. But councillors must continue to debate in person where, it is claimed, they are catching Covid-19.

Hampshire County Council's headquarters
Hampshire County Council's headquarters

Liberal Democrat county councillor Peter Chegwyn said: "Council meetings have become superspreader events, passing on Covid-19 to politicians, council staff, members of the public and the media.

"It makes perfect sense for council meetings to go virtual again, as they did at the start of the pandemic – but the government says otherwise.

"This is a total double-standard; they tell everyone they need to work from home and not take risks, then tell councils that meetings must still be held face-to-face."

HCC has advised staff to work from home where they can.

Hampshire County Council leader Keith Mans
Hampshire County Council leader Keith Mans

Cllr Mans said: "In line with current government guidance, the normal operation of our services continues.

"At this time, we are not aware of any government plans to reintroduce any rules that would allow such meetings to be held virtually.

"Therefore, our formal decision meetings must continue to be held in person – and where this occurs, every precaution is being taken to ensure the safety of attendees.

"For other kinds of meetings, staff and councillors are encouraged to meet virtually wherever possible."

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