After being briefly suspended during the pandemic, the law mandating in-person full council meetings will be reinstated in May 2021. According to the LGA’s poll, since then, one in ten councils has lost members because of the shift. The administration has stated that face-to-face meetings are essential for responsibility. Some council meetings, such as planning and full council meetings, must be held in person to comply with regulations that are now 50 years old. However, due to the epidemic, they were granted a temporary extension of time until May 2021 to hold these conferences.
If councils in England couldn’t hold hybrid meetings, the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents local governments, claimed it would be difficult to attract and keep councillors, especially those who are disabled or have other jobs or caring duties. Recent data shows that 46% of English council members have caregiving duties while 32% hold full- or part-time jobs. The Local Government Association (LGA) supports an amendment to the current Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill in Parliament that would allow councils to hold meetings online. The proposal was proposed by Conservative peer Baroness McIntosh. Conservative councilwoman in Suffolk, Sam Murray, occasionally uses a wheelchair or mobility scooter due to a mobility handicap.
In May 2021, when it was again necessary to physically present at full council meetings and certain committee meetings, she was elected. The 36-year-old woman said it was “exhausting” and “degrading” to have to be put into a chair and then prevented from leaving the meeting to use the restroom while using her mobility scooter. Any council member who misses six consecutive meetings automatically loses their seat. Sam, however, insisted that the best interest of her local community and other persons with disabilities was her top priority.
She told the BBC, “Attendance is really important to me, so I will push myself as physically as possible to get there, and it can have a detrimental consequence on my health later.” She claimed that as a committee member, she had been able to advocate for the inclusion of a disability consultee at the planning application stage. The young mother of two expressed concern that childcare may prevent her from attending late council sessions while her kids were ill. “I feel like I have extra pressure because there’s not many people like me on the council,” she continued.