Public Access to Meetings

May 4th, 2021

Last week as already noted in this Bulletin a Divisional Court held that a meeting under the Local Government Act 1972 must take place at a single, specified geographical location, that attending a meeting involves physically going to it, and that being present at such a meeting involves physical presence at the location. This week the Court gives a further Judgment, (2021) EWHC 1145 (Admin), in the same case, on public access to meetings which are required to be held in public or open to the public. The Court holds, at para 6, that members of the public must be admitted in person to the place where the meeting is being held, and, at para 8, that the mode by which the public is to have access is by physical attendance at the meeting.

The Court add, at para 9: “ None of this, of course, prevents a local authority from broadcasting or live-streaming some or all of its meetings so as to allow wider public access. But such broadcasting or live-streaming does not, on its own, satisfy the requirement for the meeting to be held in public or open to the public. We say nothing about the numbers of the members of the public who should be admitted in person, which will no doubt be subject to current public health or Government guidance. But subject to that practical consideration, or any other legislative intervention, where the requirement for the meeting to be open to the public or held in public applies, members of the public must be admitted in person as well.”

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