Public meetings cancelled in wake of Covid-19 outbreak

Public meetings cancelled in wake of Covid-19 outbreak
By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

POLITICS in Kirklees “have been put aside” as council staff and elected members combine efforts to tackle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The authority has now cancelled all meetings for the next month except those considered “business critical.”

Officers and councillors will instead focus on supporting local people through the coming weeks and the expected peak of the virus.

The decision was made following Government advice on March 16.

Kirklees’ Full Council meeting, which was due to take place at Huddersfield Town Hall on March 18, did not go ahead.

However meetings of the decision-making Cabinet, as well as planning and licensing committee meetings  will still take place. 

The council will ensure measures will be put in place to ensure social distancing at these meetings.

The council’s chief executive, Jacqui Gedman (pictured), said the decision to cancel meetings was not “taken lightly” and that the council remained “absolutely committed” to promoting and protecting democracy.

She added: “Whilst coronavirus continues to spread, as a local authority we have a duty to keep residents as safe as possible. This has to be our priority at the moment.”

The council has also set up a “command team”, pulling services from across the authority and partners such as the NHS, West Yorkshire Police and Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing.

It will make “joined-up decisions” about containing the spread of the virus as well as sharing information.

Ms Gedman also reiterated advice from Public Health England around minimising the risk of Covid-19 by regularly washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds at a time.

She urged residents to regularly check official guidance from organisations such as Public Health England and the Government for updates, help and advice.

Coun Shabir Pandor, leader of Kirklees Council, said: “The situation with coronavirus is changing daily and the very best thing we can do as an authority is to make decisions that best protect local people.

“Public health and well-being of all our residents is my top priority.

“Nothing is more important than public safety and I’m proud that all political leaders at Kirklees Council have been able to put politics aside and support the council’s decision.

“This will also help ward councillors to focus on helping residents in their communities. In times like these we all have to pull together and look out for those who need our help the most.”

Coun John Lawson, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: “Our public meetings are crucial to the running of Kirklees but now is the time to pull together and do everything we can to support local people.”

And Coun Charles Greaves, leader of the Independent Group, said: “It's right that we should do everything we can to free up council resources to help and as councillors work with our communities in this testing time.” 

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