No public access to council meetings

Wednesday August 26th 2020

Midlothian Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Midlothian Council has refused to allow public access to its meetings as it reconvenes after the summer recess.

The local authority said it was following national guidance by not holding public meetings and, instead, keeping them virtual.

However, unlike neighbouring local authorities, it has refused to even allow the media to attend the virtual meetings.

Instead, the council said a recording of a meeting of the full council, held yesterday, would be put online and access to other meetings would be ‘reviewed’ in September.

A Midlothian Council spokesman said: “As per national guidance, we are not holding any public meetings.

“We are not required under The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act to make alternative virtual arrangements; however, in the interests of transparency we are recording the full council meeting, which we will share online as soon as we can once the meeting finished.

“We will review all existing arrangements in September.”

The recorded copy of the meeting was, however, still not online 24 hours after the meeting.

Midlothian Council has used web company Public i for several years to allow people to remotely watch meetings in its council chamber of full council and planning committees.

The meetings are then archived for people to access at any time.

East Lothian Council signed up to the web service Connect Remote, offered by Public i, over the summer and launched its first virtual meeting this week, with public access allowed.

During summer recess, statutory and scrutiny meetings such as planning and meetings of the Integration Joint Board in East Lothian have been accessed by the media via Skype, with members of the public also invited to attend some meetings.

City of Edinburgh Council is also allowing public access to its virtual meetings using Public i services.

West Lothian Council has live audio streaming in place to broadcast its meetings and Scottish Borders Council is offering public access via Microsoft Teams.

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