Harrogate council to continue live streaming meetings
Council meetings have been held over Microsoft Teams and streamed onto YouTube throughout the pandemic.

Harrogate Borough Council has begun making preparations for the live streaming of meetings to continue when councillors return to the chamber next month.

Emergency regulations which allowed local authorities to meet remotely – where councillors tune in from different locations – were introduced in March last year and most meetings have since been broadcast online.

The rules will expire on May 6 when meetings must return in person but there is a government expectation that they must still be live streamed for members of the public.

Harrogate Borough Council has ordered live streaming equipment to install at its headquarters in what marks a major change from when councillors voted against any live streaming in January 2020 before the pandemic struck.

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They voted against the idea because of claims it would have been too expensive – and it is not yet known how much the new equipment will cost.

Conservative Cllr Ed Darling told a meeting on Thursday that the council was now waiting for the installation of equipment to begin.

He said:

“Remote meetings have become commonplace over the past year – I personally think they have been rather positive.

“A solution has now been ordered and we are awaiting its installation. Once it is installed and tested, the members ICT working group will meet to review the system.”

It comes as the High Court has this week rejected a challenge by local government lawyers and Hertfordshire County Council for online council meetings to continue after May 6.

Judges said primary legislation would be needed to extend these meetings and that it was not for the courts to set those laws.

Cllr Richard Cooper, Conservative leader of Harrogate Borough Council, previously said it was a “mistake” that meetings must return in-person before all coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

He also argued councils should be given a choice whether to hold meetings remotely or in-person in the future.

Announcing the end of the emergency regulations last month, Luke Hall, minister for regional growth and local government, said in a letter to councils that he recognised safety concerns but the vaccine rollout and fewer covid cases “should result in significant reduction in risk for local authority members meeting in-person”.

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