First virtual meeting as council prepares for ‘new normal’

The SIC held its first ever virtual full council meeting on Wednesday in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Councillors phoned in and made video calls from their respective wards to discuss a Covid-19 update remotely.

Despite a few slight connection and audio issues, which can be expected in unprecedented times, the novel meeting went ahead without problems.

This first of its kind meeting came at the same time as the UK parliament’s first ‘virtual’ sitting, which returned on Wednesday for Prime Minister’s Questions 

Other democratic chambers across the country have also had to find other ways to carry on with their business while respecting social distancing rules.

“There will be a new normal,” according to the SIC’s executive manager of governance and law Jan Riise, who said the council would have to adapt to “what the new future will look like”.

This new future is likely to include more virtual meetings.

The council resolved that both its, and community council meetings, could be held by email or other remote means at Wednesday’s meeting. It also recognised the importance of community councils in supporting “public service delivery and communication” going forward.

The structure of the council will also be changed by the pandemic, with Mr Riise pointing out that they were currently looking at how it will alter.

Mr Riise used “renewal” to describe the period following the pandemic, which is likely to become an increasingly used word at local and national government level, and a recognition that post-pandemic life will not be “business as usual”.

Councillors agreed they had been kept informed by chief executive Maggie Sandison and officials on their emergency planning decision-making, with daily updates on how matters had progressed for members.

Council leader Steven Coutts said they had not expected to be in this situation, and  he was “fully confident” that the decisions made had been communicated to members, were “appropriate” and had the wider community in mind. Mr Coutts also commented on the “very short period of time” in which these decisions had had to be made.

There was a recognition at the meeting that in light of developments there would be a significant impact on the ability of the council to provide services across the board, with the full extent of this still unclear.

The long-delayed college merger was also discussed at the meeting. A ministerial business case, which raised concerns among lecturers union EIS-FELA and its members earlier this week, was discussed and approved by the council at the meeting.

Public access to the meeting was restricted due to coronavirus regulations but media were able to attend.


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