Council meetings in Hampshire becoming Covid 'superspreader events' warns politician
COUNCIL meetings have become 'superspreader events' and should be made virtual as soon as possible, a senior politican has pleaded.
As Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the UK, government guidance has been for everyone to work from home, if possible.
But councillors up and down the country are continuing to travel to meetings - and it's claimed that many are catching Covid-19 as a result.
Now, Liberal Democrat Cllr Peter Chegwyn, who sits on both Hampshire County Council and Gosport Borough Council, is calling for change.
He 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.'
Cllr Chegwyn added that 'roughly half' of Gosport's councillors have contracted Covid at some point during the pandemic, and warned that the 78 councillors travelling to Hampshire County Council meetings are also at risk.
The temporary regulations permitting virtual council meetings expired in May last year.
'I don't personally like virtual meetings, but they are the safest option right now,' said Cllr Chegwyn.
'At the very least I think the idea of reduced membership on council boards should be considered - that's what has been done in Gosport and it seems to be working well.'
Hampshire County Council has advised staff to work from home where they can.
County council leader, Cllr Keith 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.'