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Council / Town hall to welcome some councillors as meetings take ‘hybrid’ form

Lerwick Town Hall. Photo: Shetland NewsLerwick Town Hall. Photo: Shetland News

SOME councillors will get the chance to take part in meetings this week face to face for the first time in months when Lerwick Town Hall is opened up to elected members.

Unusually the full council will meet over the space of two days – on Wednesday and Thursday – because of the length of the agenda.

Up to 14 of the isles’ 22 councillors will be allowed to sit, while socially distanced, upstairs in the town hall – with the rest due to participate through video.

When taken over two days, it is scheduled to be one of the longest meetings of the full council in recent memory. Back in February 2012, elected members sat for more than eight hours, when the SIC was faced with drastic cuts of up to 25 per cent of its annual budget.

The town hall has been risk assessed, with a one way system introduced – and councillors will have to make do without tea or coffee as social distancing measures are “strictly” implemented.

Before the coronavirus pandemic the councillors would sit in the smaller chamber downstairs in the Town Hall.

Over the last few months any meetings which have taken place have been held remotely through video conferencing platform Microsoft Teams.

Council convener Malcolm Bell said: “We do think there’s a desire among members to try and facilitate face to face meetings if possible.

“Some members will be meeting in the main hall, socially distanced, and there will be some who will be using Microsoft Teams. It’s a hybrid meeting.

“It works for the Scottish Parliament and Westminster. It’s important to get back to meeting and taking quite important decisions.”

He added that while there is a place for virtual meetings, there have been some drawbacks.

“A number of members have struggled to some extent with their internet connections, which means they are not able to play a full part in the meetings,” Bell said.