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Keep Council Meetings Accessible - Mumsnet campaign

 The option for councils in England to have virtual meetings at the start of the pandemic made participation more accessible for parents and women, and was a step forward for democracy. We’re asking the Government to allow councils to retain this option.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated May 13, 2022

One small silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic has been the increase in remote and hybrid working, not only in workplaces but also in the corridors of power - from Westminster to local authorities. 

Local authorities make important decisions about issues that affect parents and women, from funding libraries and play parks to providing domestic violence services and overseeing many aspects of education and early years.

Councils were given an exemption in April 2020 that allowed meetings to take place online - meaning that anyone could participate in or watch local decision-making from their homes. This made council meetings more accessible for those with caring responsibilities, such as parents, as well as people with disabilities and those shielding, whether as active participants or as observers. 

Research has shown these specific benefits: 

  • Increased attendances at remote meetings by both councillors and the public
  • Significant cost savings for some authorities arising from much less travel to meetings
  • The environmental benefits of less travel, particularly in the large county authorities
  • A better work/life balance for councillors
  • Improved equality of access to meetings for all and opening up opportunities for more people to stand for election as councillors
  • More transparency and openness for the public to see council meetings
  • An option to move meetings online when there are constraints, for example bad weather such as snow or flooding.

We think this was a step forward for democracy - making it easier for women and parents of young children, as well as people with disabilities and other caring responsibilities to participate. Research has shown that remote  meetings lead to increased diversity in councillor demographics - something that’s sorely needed given just 35% of councillors are women and only 15% are under 45. We know that Mumsnet users want politics to be more representative - with 83% of you earlier this year agreeing that there should be more diverse representation among political figures.

But although local councils in Scotland and Wales continue to hold meetings online, in England, the option has been withdrawn.

 On the 29th April 2021, Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts wrote an open letter, signed by 227 councillors who are also parents, to then minister for local government Robert Jenrick:

“We believe that the practice of holding council meetings online or in hybrid form, so that they can be attended by everyone who has an interest, must be allowed to continue and become the ‘new normal’. We believe it will incentivise something that we all want: greater participation from all sectors of society, particularly those groups who are currently underrepresented – which includes parents of young children and carers for dependent adults, some of the most intensive users of locally-provided services.”

Listen to our COO explaining why we're calling on the Government to allow councils to have virtual meetings

And now, we’re asking Mumsnet users to contact their local representatives and ask them to get their local authorities to officially support this and to write to the UK Government to encourage them to take action. To get involved, click the link below.

3rd May 2022: Local democracy: Here’s what you can do to help #KeepCouncilMeetingsVirtual!

14th January 2022: Update and new action: keep council meetings accessible

4th May 2021: MNHQ here: keep council meetings accessible!

29th April 2021: Open letter: Keep council meetings accessible

This is all part of our Women in Politics campaign which aims to encourage more women to get involved by encouraging women and mums to stand and making politics more accessible and family-friendly. For more on all our campaigns, sign up to our campaigns list here

New action Ask your councillor(s) to support this model motion

More than 220 councillors who are also parents signed our open letter to Government urging it to keep what was a step forward for accessibility and democracy.

Read more
Dad on laptop while child enjoys TV
Latest news Mumsnet founder urges Government to allow councils to keep meeting virtually

More than 220 councillors who are also parents signed our open letter to Government urging it to keep what was a step forward for accessibility and democracy.

Read more