Statement on Emergency Decision Making Arrangements - May 2020

At the outset of the Coronavirus pandemic in March the Council took the exceptional step of cancelling its formal Committee meetings until May 2020.  This decision was not taken lightly and was in the interests of public safety.  Subsequent guidance from the Government on social distancing, and the instructions for people to stay safe in their homes reinforced the need for this decision.

Since then we have been working hard to reinstate transparent and democratic decision making by elected Members in Committees of the Council at the earliest possible opportunity. We are now taking advantage of new Regulations which allow Committees to meet in virtual form online, starting with the Licensing Sub-Committee at 10.30am on Tuesday 5th May. This will be followed by an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council on 19th May at which Councillors will consider the introduction of special temporary decision making arrangements. These will remain in place until at least 13th October when the Council will meet to decide whether circumstances allow for the resumption of normal business. 

The proposals provide for meetings of regulatory committees to resume, in virtual form, with immediate effect. In addition to the Licensing Sub-Committee this will allow for the determination of planning applications by the Development Control Committee, which will meet for the first time on 21st May, and Neighbourhood Planning Sub-Committees (and, in the case of Surbiton which has no Planning Sub-Committee, meetings of the main Neighbourhood Committee specifically for planning items only).  Special arrangements will be made to enable residents to participate in these meetings virtually so that they can speak and make representations just as they do in meetings held at the Guildhall. 

Because it is vital that we do not divert staff and Councillors from the delivery of critical frontline services designed to support residents and save lives during this emergency period it is proposed that the Council’s five Strategic Committees responsible for major policy and service decisions will be temporarily streamlined into one main Strategic Response Committee. This will meet on a monthly basis and will be empowered to deal with all urgent business which would normally be considered by the other Committees if it cannot wait until the resumption of normal conditions.  We will take the opportunity to introduce forms of virtual public participation in these meetings as soon as it is practicable to do so. 

The Council is not required to hold an Annual Meeting for the purpose of Mayor making this year and as a consequence the meeting originally scheduled for 12th May will not take place. The Mayor, Councillor Margaret Thompson, will remain in office for a further 12 months, to May 2021. Councillor Sushila Abraham has been appointed to the role of Deputy Mayor in succession to Councillor Munir Ravalia for the same period. The meeting of Council on 7th July will take place as scheduled. 

We will publish a modified schedule of meetings in the coming days, so please check the listings here for updated details. All virtual Committee meetings will be streamed live on the Council’s YouTube channel. They will also be available to watch again shortly after the end of each meeting.