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Open letter: Keep council meetings accessible

During the pandemic, local councils across the country have been allowed to have their council meetings online - meaning that anyone could participate in or watch local decision-making from their homes. This has made council meetings more accessible for those with caring responsibilities, such as parents, as well as people with disabilities and those shielding.

By Justine Roberts | Last updated May 27, 2021

Dad on laptop while child enjoys TV

At the end of this week, local councils will be forced to return to holding all councils meetings in person. This will of course will make these meeting less accessible. We've written an open letter, co-signed by parent councillors, to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government asking it to do all it can to ensure councils can continue to hold meetings virtually, or in hybrid form:

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Robert Jenrick Secretary of State Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF

29 April 2021

Keep council meetings accessible

Dear Secretary of State,

We, the undersigned, are local councillors who are also expectant parents and parents.

Almost every week in local communities up and down the country, we take part in meetings as part of our responsibilities as councillors. We’re pleased and proud to play our part in these vital exercises of local democracy.

As you know, local authorities make decisions about issues of great importance to people in the UK, from libraries and play parks to domestic violence services and care for older people. Not to mention (who could forget?) the bins.

You will also know that local councils face real challenges in finding people who are willing to take up the role of councillor. According to the Councillors’ Census of 2018, councillors as a whole do not look like the country they serve. Just 35% of councillors are women; only 15% are under 45 (the median age in the UK is 40); and less than 4% are Black, Asian or from other minority ethnicity backgrounds. Councillors are more likely to have good health, and less likely to be in full-time or part-time employment, than their fellow citizens.

Over the past terrible year as our country (along with others across the globe) has had to cope with the pandemic, the rapid adoption of home-working and flexible working tools has been one of the small points of light.

Finally, employers and organisations have been forced to recognise what many with caring responsibilities or mobility challenges already knew: there’s no good reason to force people into physical office spaces or drafty church halls to hold a single meeting. Every tool we need to enable free, unfettered access is available literally at our fingertips. And these tools, widely adopted for the first time, have had a huge impact on the ability of people from all backgrounds, whatever their other commitments, to contribute wherever and whenever their input is valuable.

Indeed, news reports over the past few days suggest the government is rapidly coming to this conclusion itself when it comes to thinking about future working conditions for civil servants.

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.

We urge the MHCLG to allow remote and hybrid council meetings to continue, whatever technical glitches and difficulties have yet to be overcome. We strongly feel that in the long run, this approach will encourage participation in our democracy.

Council meetings aren’t always box office. But we think it’s vital that they remain onscreen.

Yours,

  • Cllr Andrew Jones, Hammersmith and Fulham Council
  • Cllr Natalia Pérez, Hammersmith and Fulham Council
  • Cllr Adam Connell, Hammersmith & Fulham Council
  • Cllr Max Schmid, Hammersmith and Fulham Council
  • Cllr Barrie Grunewald, St. Helens Borough Council
  • Cllr David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council
  • Cllr Rob Banks, Lewes District Council
  • Cllr Sharon Holder, Hammersmith and Fulham Council
  • Cllr Kate Groucutt, St Helens Borough Council
  • Cllr Rachel Leighton, Hammersmith and Fulham Council
  • Cllr Dr Gareth DeBoos, Ringwood Town Council
  • Cllr Gloria O'Reilly, Ringwood Town Council
  • Cllr Mike Bell, North Somerset Council
  • Cllr Caritas Charles, North Somerset Council
  • Cllr Emily Smith, Vale of White Horse District Council
  • Cllr Sue Fennimore, Hammersmith and Fulham Council
  • Cllr Nikki Woollatt, Mid Devon District Council
  • Cllr Rachel Tripp, Newham Council
  • Cllr Rachel Blake, Tower Hamlets Council
  • Cllr Alison Bennett, Mid Sussex District Council
  • Cllr Joseph Foster, Burgess Hill Town Council
  • Cllr Joe Cosby, Crewe Town Council
  • Cllr Shama Tatler, Brent Council
  • Cllr Sarah Russell, Manchester City Council
  • Cllr Emily Rowles, Manchester Council
  • Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Islington Council
  • Cllr Alex Paterson, Medway Council
  • Cllr Martin Bond, St Helens Council
  • Cllr Soraya Adejare, Hackney Council
  • Cllr Caroline Woodley, Hackney Council
  • Cllr Asma Islam, Tower Hamlets Council
  • Cllr Jamie Bennett, Arun District Council & Rustington Parish Council
  • Cllr Rabina Khan, Tower Hamlets Council
  • Cllr Gilbert Smyth, Hackney Council
  • Cllr Jess David, Bath and North East Somerset Council
  • Cllr Steve Donnelly, Ealing Council
  • Cllr Sarah Warren, Bath and North East Somerset Council
  • Cllr Chrissy Stamp, Medway Council
  • Cllr Johanna Maitland, Bollington Town Council
  • Cllr Sophie Cameron, Hackney Council
  • Cllr Josh Blacker, Ealing Council
  • Cllr Helen Dennis, Southwark Council
  • Cllr John Pierce, Tower Hamlets Council
  • Cllr Michelle O’Doherty, Bath & North East Somerset Council
  • Cllr Alison Jenne, Cumnor Parish & Vale of White Horse District Council
  • Cllr Carol Stanier, North Herts District Council & Royston Town Council
  • Cllr Tracey Wye, Central Bedfordshire Council
  • Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council
  • Cllr Benedict Dempsey, Mid Sussex District Council
  • Cllr Catherine Gibbons, North Somerset Council
  • Cllr Kelly Grehan, Dartford Council
  • Cllr Grace Clifton, Abingdon Town Council
  • Cllr Sara Hyde, Islington Council
  • Cllr Alice Perry, Islington Council
  • Cllr Nicky Brennan, Birmingham City Council
  • Cllr Lucia das Neves, Haringey Council
  • Cllr Peray Ahmet, Haringey Council
  • Cllr Samantha Dixon, Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Cllr Sacha Gosine, Dartford Council
  • Cllr Emma Ben Moussa, Dartford Council
  • Cllr Susan Woodward, Staffordshire County Council
  • Cllr Eleanor Combley, Bristol City Council
  • Cllr Adele Barnett-Ward, Reading Borough Council
  • Cllr Nathan Pardoe, Cheshire West & Chester Council
  • Cllr Valerie Bossman-Quarshie, Islington Council
  • Cllr Eleanor Stringer, Merton Council
  • Cllr Susan Hatton, Mid Sussex District Council
  • Cllr Carl Quilliam, Merton Council
  • Cllr Nicola Holland, North Somerset Council
  • Cllr Ian Middleton, Cherwell District Council
  • Cllr Natasha Irons, Merton Council
  • Cllr Katherine Tyson, Cherwell District Council
  • Cllr Rachel Massey, Rochdale Borough Council
  • Cllr Christine Megson, Lambeth Council
  • Cllr Rebecca Moore, Manchester City Council
  • Cllr Tanya Slatter, Portishead Town Council
  • Cllr Karin Haverson, North Somerset Council
  • Cllr Caroline Cherry, North Somerset council
  • Cllr Sue Macmillan, Hammersmith and Fulham Council
  • Cllr Sufia Alam, Tower Hamlets Council
  • Cllr Miranda Williams, Royal Borough of Greenwich Council
  • Cllr Sade Etti, Hackney Council
  • Cllr Gulcin Ozdemir, Islington Council
  • Cllr Kate Nash, Brackley Town Council
  • Cllr Nanda Manley-Browne, Lambeth Council
  • Cllr Edward Davie, Lambeth Council
  • Cllr Philip Day, Ringwood Town Council
  • Cllr Mili Patel, Brent Council
  • Cllr Sally Hinkley, Bexley Council
  • Cllr Stuart Mccarroll, West Oxfordshire Council
  • Cllr Tina Valcarcel, Lambeth Council
  • Cllr Sophie Conway, Hackney Council
  • Cllr Amanda Hack, Leicestershire Council
  • Cllr Shaun Stephenson-McGall, Bath & North East Somerset Council
  • Cllr. Asif Siddique, Hammersmith and Fulham Council
  • Cllr Ruth Malloy, Bath and North East Somerset Council
  • Cllr Clare Mcintyre, Liverpool Council
  • Cllr Alice Smart, Leeds City Council
  • Cllr Ben Garner, Leeds City Council
  • Cllr Dr Bharat Pankhania, Bath and North East Somerset Council
  • Cllr Jennifer Burke Davies, Cardiff Council
  • Cllr Andy Wilson, Lambeth Council
  • Cllr Beverley Brewer, Redbridge Council
  • Cllr Paul Flanagan, Burntwood Town Council
  • Cllr James Walsh, Guildford Borough Council
  • Cllr Asma Begum, Tower Hamlets Council
  • Cllr Mike Stubbs, Newcastle-under-Lyme Council
  • Cllr Sean Macleod, Lewes District Council
  • Cllr Angela Goodwin, Guildford Borough / Surrey County Councils
  • Cllr Steve Bridger, North Somerset Council
  • Cllr Craig Whitby, Mansfield District Council
  • Cllr Sarah Moore, Bath and North East Somerset
  • Cllr Josie Channer, Barking and Dagenham Council
  • Cllr Chris Stanbra, North Northamptonshire Council
  • Cllr James MacCleary, Lewes District Council
  • Cllr Mick Barton, Mansfield District Council
  • Cllr Debra Barlow, Mansfield District Council & Warsop Parish Council
  • Cllr Lesley Boniface, Newhaven Town Council
  • Cllr Martin Wright, Nottingham County Council and Mansfield District Council
  • Cllr Mrs Paula Woolven, Newhaven Town Council
  • Cllr Victoria Olisa, Southwark Council
  • Cllr Andrew Abrahams, Mansfield Council
  • Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Southwark Council
  • Cllr Paula Walker, Wandsworth Council
  • Cllr Ann-Marie Cousins, Greenwich Council
  • Cllr Lisa Northover, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council
  • Cllr Radha Burgess, Southwark Council
  • Cllr Claire Gilbert, Wandsworth Council
  • Cllr Paul John White, Wandsworth Council
  • Cllr Jonathan Harris, West Northamptonshire Council
  • Cllr Caroline Kalu, Lewisham Council
  • Cllr Peter Babudu, Southwark Council
  • Cllr Helen Redfern, Croydon Council
  • Cllr Janet Campbell, Croydon Council
  • Cllr Kirsten Ellis, Haslemere Town Council
  • Cllr Diana Toynbee, Herefordshire County Council and Hereford City Council
  • Cllr David Noland Craven, District Council
  • Cllr Maurice Mcleod, Wandsworth Council
  • Cllr Richard Taylor, Hawarden Community Council
  • Cllr Ros Flowers, Waltham Forest Council
  • Cllr Anna-Joy Rickard, Hackney Council
  • Cllr Lubna Arshad, Oxford City Council
  • Cllr Saima Ahmed, Redbridge Council
  • Cllr Rachel Eden, Reading Borough Council
  • Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading Borough Council
  • Cllr Catherine del Campo, Windsor and Maidenhead Council
  • Cllr Amy Tisi, Windsor and Maidenhead Council
  • Cllr Clare De Silva, Enfield Council
  • Cllr Julie Flenley, Chiddingfold Parish Council
  • Cllr Mik Sabiers, Ealing Council
  • Cllr Portia Newling, Bestwood Village Parish Council
  • Cllr Maria Kay, Lambeth Council
  • Cllr Sandra Cornford, Old Alresford Parish Council
  • Hon Alderman and cllr Dr Eleanor Scott, Portsmouth City Council
  • Cllr Abigail Parker, Eastwood Town Council
  • Cllr Pauline George, London Borough of Lambeth Council
  • Cllr Kerrie Bradburn, Milton Keynes Council
  • Cllr Ewan Jones, Bruton Town Council (Chair and Mayor)
  • Cllr Abi Mills, Lancaster City Council
  • Cllr Imogen Makepeace, Lewes District Council
  • Cllr Nicola Presland, St Neots town Council
  • Cllr Mayor Philip Glanville, London Borough of Hackney Council
  • Cllr Vicki Bolton, Winchester City Council
  • Cllr Godfrey Bland, Tunbridge Wells Councils
  • Cllr Bridget Petty, North Somerset Council
  • Cllr Sarah Cloke, Brentwood Borough Council
  • Cllr Joanna Young, Lancaster City Council
  • Cllr Sharon Galliford, Surrey Heath Borough Council
  • Cllr Jarmila Halovsky-Yu, Windlesham Parish Council
  • Cllr Lisa Scott, Charlwood Parish Council
  • Cllr. Helen Hansen-Hjul,Windlesham Parish Council
  • Cllr Mark Gordon, Windlesham Parish Council
  • Cllr Rae Frederick, Ringwood Town Council
  • Cllr Rhiannon Rees, Burwash parish Council
  • Cllr Penny McCullough, Great Chesterford Parish Council
  • Cllr Kellie Hinton, Henley Town Council and South Oxfordshire District Council
  • Cllr Emily O'Brien, Lewes District Council
  • Cllr Claire Buntin, Halton with Aughton Parish Council
  • Cllr Elizabeth Taylor, Old Hurst Parish Council
  • Cllr Jude Considine, Lanchester Parish Council
  • Cllr Amanda Dodwell, Central Bedfordshire Council
  • Cllr Nikki Drogman Castle Point Borough Council
  • Cllr Sharanjit Bhinder-Dhonsi, Denham Parish Council
  • Cllr Philip Leech, Willoughby Waterleys Parish Council

If you are a councillor and a parent and would like to add your name as a signatory of this letter, please click here.