Pickles confirms plan to change electronic agenda rules

Written by Colin Marrs on 26 February 2014 in Editorial
Editorial

The government has confirmed that it is planning to legislate to allow councillors to be sent agendas for council meetings electronically.

The issue was raised during a session of the Communities and Local Government select committee last month, #AskPickles where council officials were asked to tweet questions for communities secretary Eric Pickles.

The committee said this week that Pickles had contacted it to confirm that it wants to change the law so that councillors are no longer required to send meeting agendas in hard copy.

In a letter, Pickles said: "I am aware of the support for a change in legislation to remove any doubts about councils' ability to send agendas electronically. As a Government we are minded to legislate, through making an appropriate order under section 8 of the Electronic Communications Act 2000, to enable this by April 2014.

"However, I believe it important that individual councillors continue to have an ongoing legal right to receive council papers in hard copy, should they wish. This would mirror the approach we have taken for local taxpayers on information accompanying council tax bills."

Committee chairman Clive Betts said: “Both the secretary of state and I were surprised to learn that councils in the 21st Century are prevented by law from sending out electronic copies of their agendas. 

“Judging by the number of tweets we received, however, this is certainly a matter of concern for those working in local government.  As a result of #AskPickles, it is now not only an issue that the Government is aware of, but something it plans to rectify.”

In a statement, the Association for Democratic Services Officers said: “This is a big step forward for ADSO which has been lobbying hard along with other organisations and Councils for this change.”

In December, local government minister Brandon Lewis told Parliament that ministers were aware of support for a change in legislation “to remove any doubts about councils’ ability to send agendas electronically and we are minded to legislate to enable this by April of 2014”.

However, during the subsequent #AskPickles session, the communities secretary said that he had “no idea such rules existed”.

Betts added that his committee hoped to run another session of #AskPickles within the next year.  

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