Virtual meeting gets Falkirk Council going again

Falkirk Council met last week for the first time since all of its meetings were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a historic first for the council, they used a teleconference to bring members together.

Councillors agreed to set up an executive committee to steer the council through the coronavirus crisis, which has made meetings impossible for more than a month now.

Since then, senior council officials have had emergency powers to make decisions, working in consultation with the three political group leaders.

The 12 members – five from the SNP, four Labour and three Conservatives – meet using secure video conferencing technology.

These meetings are not open to the public, but recordings will be available shortly after the meeting and agendas and papers will still be available beforehand.

Falkirk Council leader, Cecil Meiklejohn, said: “As we move from the immediate response mode in to the recovery, renew and refresh programme it is important that there is an increased opportunity for elected members to be involved.”

She added that the new structures “will enable members to take decisions around urgent business and set the direction of our recovery plan, while still maintaining social distancing”.

“Our continued thanks to all our staff, particularly those on the front line at this difficult time, who are continuing to  work to enable critical front line services to be delivered and to all our community volunteers who have given their time and efforts to support our most vulnerable citizens, and the real difference they are making to the welfare  of those in the community.”

Labour group leader Robert Bissett welcomed the council meeting again, even in a limited form, and he also paid tribute to the key workers and council staff who were responding to the pandemic.

He said: “I think the setting up of these committees shows that we are moving forward and tentatively getting the council moving again towards some form of a new normal, which I am sure the public and businesses will welcome.”

Conservative group leader Lynn Munro said it had been a good meeting and agreed it was a positive step.

However, she said the new executive is facing huge challenges, including how to ensure children get back into education and how local businesses can be supported when so many of them are facing despair.

The executive will meet every fortnight until the summer break. The body will be responsible for all council decisions except planning, which will continue to meet via video calls, although site visits and deputations will not be possible.