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Dorset Council is reviewing its policy on face-to-face meetings.

Author: Trevor Bevins, local democracy journalistPosted 4 hours ago
Last updated 4 hours ago

DORSET Council needs to review its meeting policy to see if it can safely resume face-to-face meetings.

It comes after an entire committee was ‘pinged’ when a participant tested positive for Covid after feeling bad.

The authority said the review was due to take place this month, regardless of the outcome of the recent incident.

The licensing committee on Monday, August 23 was one of the few public meetings the board has held in person since the start of the pandemic.

It gathered less than a dozen people in County Hall Committee Room No1 and involved a late-night request for Neon Bar in Bridport.

Among those present were three councilors who made up the panel, municipal officials from the democratic services, legal and licensing teams, a police officer, a notary, the landlord and a reporter. There were no members of the public at the meeting although it was open to participation.

The next day, attendees received an email from Dorset Council telling them that one of the attendees had tested positive for Covid after feeling unwell that evening. Those at the meeting were then ‘pinched’ by the NHS app to suggest getting tested.

It has been argued that licensing is the only board function that needs to be held in person, although other authorities including Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council have continued to organize online licensing committees.

A spokesperson for Dorset Council said: “The practices and arrangements for meeting different councils vary. Some have resumed holding most or all of their face-to-face meetings. Others, like Dorset, organize most of the meetings online. Licensing decisions must be made by advisors and cannot be delegated to officers and we have decided that these licensing hearings involving few participants could be held in person.

“On the occasions when board meetings are in person, we can encourage people to wear face coverings and perform lateral flow tests in advance, but we can’t require it. We will continue to remind all in-person meeting attendees not to attend if they feel unwell and our message remains: hands, face, space, testing, fresh air. “

The board said the terms of the meetings will be reviewed this month.

A licensing committee this week and another next week are being held online because the number of people expected to observe or participate would be too large for one of the board meeting rooms or even the board room.

“The board is installing temporary webcasting equipment (before implementing a permanent solution) and it is hoped that this will be in place before any full return to face-to-face meetings, minimizing the need for participation. for those who just want to observe meetings, ”a council statement read.

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