South Tyneside Council is making preparations for the first socially distanced Borough Council meeting, which will be the first 'in person' democratic meeting in over a year.
The Council's Annual Meeting is planned to take place on Tuesday 18 May at Temple Park Leisure Centre at 6pm to allow for covid secure measures, including social distancing.
Under law the Council must hold the annual meeting between eight and 21 days after the retirement of councillors in an election year.
The Government temporarily removed the legal requirement for local authorities to hold meetings in person during the coronavirus pandemic. All Local Authorities had been handed new powers to hold public meetings virtually. The Council's current powers to hold remote meetings as part of the Coronavirus Act lapse on 7 May.
George Mansbridge, Interim Head of Paid Service at South Tyneside Council said: "This year has been extremely challenging for councils, with the focus on protecting the most vulnerable and keeping communities as safe as possible while ensuring that vital services continue to run. During this time, we have embraced democracy in a covid secure way.
"We've put the infrastructure and technology in place so that elected members can attend the Council meeting in person and residents can either physically attend the meeting at Temple Park or access the meeting remotely through the Council's website.
"Whilst a meeting with so many people provides challenges, we have undertaken meticulous planning and are determined to deliver it in a covid secure way. We have also taken measures to ensure that the meeting will still be streamed online, so that those who wish to stay at home can still engage with democracy."
The meeting will be streamed live on YouTube and members of the public can watch the meeting of Borough Council by visiting www.southtyneside.gov.uk/watchcouncilmeetings
Any member of the public wishing to attend the meeting in person can apply to do so by registering their details via Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/annual-council-meeting-tickets-152844894193 Due to social distancing measures, spaces for public attendance are strictly limited to 60 and so registration is essential to secure a place.
Everyone who attends the meeting of Borough Council will be required to wear a face covering, unless exempt.
Council staff and Elected Members will also be required to take a Lateral Flow Test the day before the meeting. Members of the public are urged to take advantage of the national 'next step safely' campaign and access a free, rapid lateral flow tests for themselves in advance https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing/ Whilst this is advised, it is not a requirement for entry for members of the public.
Anyone displaying covid symptoms is asked not to attend on the night but instead to watch via the live stream accessed by the Council's website.
The Annual Meeting usually includes the ceremonial 'Mayor Making'. Whilst this will still take place, the ceremonial element has been postponed until a later date, which will be announced in advance.