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We think we held the UK’s first ‘virtual’ full council meeting

Published: 23 April 2020

Virtual Council UK’s first ‘virtual’ full council meeting

Exeter City Council has held what is believed to be one of the UK’s first ‘virtual’ full council meetings involving all bar one of its 39 councillors.

The virtual meeting was held on Tuesday evening via Skype technology and broadcast live via Facebook Live.

The meeting was chaired – as is the tradition – by the Council’s Lord Mayor, Cllr Peter Holland and lasted just over an hour.

Thirty-eight of the Council’s 39 representatives from across Exeter’s 13 wards took part in the virtual meeting joining in from their own homes rather than from Exeter’s Guildhall because of social distancing restrictions caused by the Coronavirus outbreak.

At the meeting it was agreed to postpone the Council’s Annual Meeting, which normally takes place in May and confirms the appointment of the new Lord Mayor, Deputy and Committee Chairs, until at least December 2020. The current Lord Mayor will now stay in post until then, along with his chosen charity the CITY Community Trust.

A number of other issues – including the ratifying of the minutes from the Council’s Executive – also held as a virtual meeting at beginning of April, were debated and voted on.

John Street, Corporate Manager, Democratic & Civic Support, said the virtual meeting presented a number of challenges which the local authority had to overcome but the meeting passed by without any real problems.

“Inviting 39 councillors and a number of officers to a virtual meeting is never going to be without its challenges. This was unprecedented but then again, we are living through unprecedented times!

“I am full of admiration for everyone who allowed this meeting to happen and for all the members and officers who took part in our latest chapter of local democracy and indeed history for the city of Exeter.

Council Leader Phil Bialyk said: “Recent government legislation has allowed local authorities to be able to hold council meetings at arm’s length and means we can carry on with essential business without putting councillors and officers in harm’s way.

“Whilst many councils have taken the decision to cancel their meetings, we believe here in Exeter that local democracy must be allowed to continue and I am very proud of the council for that.”

You can see the virtual full council below.

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