SADDLEWORTH’S first ever online Annual Parish Council meeting takes place on Monday, May 17 to see if making the event virtual encourages more members of the public to attend.
The meeting is held each May to give a round-up of council activities over the last year, a chairman’s report, finance report, details of councillors’ attendance, and a look at future projects, as well as a chance for the public to ask questions and meet councillors.
However, over recent years the number of people attending has dwindled significantly and last year’s event was cancelled completely due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
Now, councillors have voted to take the event online in the hope that more people will watch from their own homes to see what the Parish Council is doing for the area.
But the decision came after a lengthy debate over whether to scrap the meeting entirely, with seven councillors voting in favour of holding an online event, and six against.
The meeting on May 17, which starts at 7pm on Zoom, will be held online as a trial before a
decision is made about future events.
Cllr Barbara Beeley, chair of the Parish Council, said: “Numbers have dwindled significantly as people can find the information on our website, social media and other places. Is it still necessary to have the meeting?”
Cllr Graham Sheldon added: “Usually we have most councillors turn up but only two members of the public. I say abandon it with immediate effect. It is no longer fit for purpose.
“If people wish to find out what we’re doing and ask questions, they can do so at council meetings (with the correct notice).”
And Cllr Brian Lord commented: “When I first joined the Parish Council, there were 30 or 40 people at these meetings so they were worthwhile.
“Now hardly anybody but the councillors themselves attend so why are we doing it?”
But some councillors spoke in favour of continuing the meetings, even in just a virtual format, to highlight what they are doing in the community.
Cllr Max Woodvine said: “I think we should be putting out a clear message that we are still here and working hard for the community.
“If we don’t have a physical meeting, we can reach the public in other ways, such as they can watch online or we do a recording of the meeting, rather than abandon it all together.”
Cllr Sam Al-Hamdani said: “The purpose is to meet the electorate and inform them of our work, which is an issue if they aren’t there.
“But if we can organise something online, people can attend virtually.”
And Cllr Luke Lancaster added: “We should give it a go and if it is not successful then we do not need to do it again.
“We can encourage participation in advance and let people know it’s happening.”
• You can tune into the meeting on Zoom on May 17 at 7pm using these details:
Meeting ID: 944 4058 5963
For more information about the meeting contact the staff at the Civic Hall by
calling 01457 876665 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
• Saddleworth Parish Council has been holding meetings on Zoom throughout the pandemic as councillors continue working for the community.
However, from May 7, all local authorities and local councils must return to face-to-face regular meetings, according to NALC regulations.
The meetings will be held in the upstairs ballroom at the Civic Hall in Uppermill and Covid protocols will be in place.