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ONLINE council meetings are here to stay in Blaenau Gwent.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, on Thursday, September 29, councillors discussed a new “multi-location meeting policy” for holding online and hybrid meetings.

Since the Civic Centre in Ebbw Valie was vacated last year, and also due to the Covid-19 pandemic the council has had to embraced online meetings

With the relaxation of Covid-19 health measures some hybrid meetings have been held.

This means that some councillors, officers, and public speakers have been logging in to meetings from the Abraham Derby room in the General Offices (GO) on Steelworks road in Ebbw Vale while other participants are online.

Council leader, Cllr Steve Thomas said:

“The covid crisis heightened the speed towards this.

“When considering arrangements, we’ve gone to the statutory guidance and general principles and that they should reflect procedure rules set out in the constitution.”

Cllr Wayne Hodgins believed that an amendment needed to be made to the proposal.

He wanted to see to agenda notices and placed at council buildings to “alert people” that meetings are taking place.

Cllr Hodgins also wanted council signage to put up at the GO so that residents know it is now the council’s headquarters, and that the Civic Centre is closed.

Cllr Hodgins said:

“There’s no signs there, and perhaps a copy of the agenda for full council meetings can be put in the reception area.

“It’s our democratic hub, it will give people a focal point.

“Some people don’t realise that the Civic Centre is all boarded up.”

He added that as someone who is self-employed, he was happy with the remote meetings policy as he had logged in remotely from “here there and everywhere.”

Independent group leader Cllr Joanna Wilkins said:

“This is the start; they key to this is the GO and getting that room right.

“Hybrid meetings are not working but we do need to offer them to provide the best possible service we can.”

Cllr Thomas said that trials are taking place to use other rooms in the GO for hybrid meetings.

Cllr Thomas added that Covid-19 “hasn’t gone away” and this policy allowed the council to proceed “carefully.”

The new policy was approved unanimously.

In 2021, a new law was brought in by the Welsh Government which require local authorities to ensure their meetings are capable of being held remotely.

It cemented emergency legislation that was brought in during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 which allowed meetings to take place remotely.

The expectation is that all Welsh local authorities, community councils, national park authorities, fire and rescue authorities and port health authorities will broadcast meetings electronically so that members of the public not there, can see and hear proceedings.

It is expected that meetings will be shown live and will remain online available for people to see for some time after the meeting.

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