We would like to take this opportunity to explain why unfortunately TCAG will not be represented at the July 2021 LTC Task Force meeting.
The UK Government chose not to extend the legislation that allows local authority meetings to be held virtually or as hybrid meetings. Instead forcing attendance to be in person, whilst still recommending the public work from home when possible. Yet despite this change it seems that officers etc are still allowed to attend virtually, yet committee members are being forced to attend in person.
The meeting takes place in the council chambers, which are air conditioned and with no fresh ventilation.
We were advised that there would be social distancing and that masks would be worn other than when people were speaking. This sounds like a similar practice to how we have seen Government operate on Parliament tv, with masks only being removed literally when each person speaks. However, it turns out that whilst the council encourage face masks to be worn when entering the building that is not the case once people have sat down in the air conditioned chambers for the duration of the meeting.
As I, TCAG Chair – Laura Blake, have underlying health conditions, I requested permission to attend virtually in the same way as officers etc. I was refused on the basis that as a ‘decision maker’ I had to attend in person.
I asked if I could participate in the meeting virtually, if I gave up my right to vote (if anything that needed a vote came up) thus revoking my decision making power. I was refused on the basis that what I said in debate could influence the decision making process.
I replied stating that officers etc attending virtually could equally influence the decision making process through debate and the info they were sharing.
I have even located links to Government advice that states meetings in Council Chambers should follow Government advice for community facilities. That guidance suggests that the council have a duty of care and that on health and safety grounds that people should be offered the opportunity to attend meetings virtually where it is possible.
The council still refuse, and my local MP, Stephen Metcalfe has even taken this up with the Chief Exec, Lyn Carpenter on my behalf, yet still the council refuse to allow me to attend the meeting virtually.
I have asked Mr Metcalfe if he could kindly obtain a statement from the council as to why they are not willing to follow the Government guidance that I have provided links to, and at this time I am yet to receive a response.
My substitute for the meeting, who is double vaccinated, also feels it is unsafe to attend in person in the airconditioned chambers with no adequate fresh ventilation.
I hope you will all know and realise just how much I put into fighting LTC, and there is no doubt that all the work I am doing takes a toll on my health, but I’m afraid I draw the line at knowingly putting my health and life at such high risk, with COVID-19 cases rising so much and so quickly, especially when there is a perfectly safe alternative, it is just an option that the council refuse to allow.
I will be tuning into watch the meeting live online, and I will email any questions and comments I would usually have made in the meeting to the Chair after the meeting. I will continue to fight LTC as best I can, as I have done to date. Together we are stronger!
Chair – TCAG