Councillor calls for face-to-face meetings as lockdown eases to ‘send message to community’

Thetford Town Councillor Mark Taylor has called for "open air" council meetings in Kings House garde

Thetford Town Councillor Mark Taylor has called for "open air" council meetings in Kings House garden as lockdown starts to ease. Photo: Thetford Town Council - Credit: Thetford Town Council

Meetings could be held outside in a bid to increase transparency and “inspire confidence” in the community during the coronavirus lockdown, a councillor has suggested.

Thetford King's House Photo: Sonya Duncan

Thetford King's House Photo: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2009

Thetford town councillor Mark Taylor has put forward the idea to hold face-to-face council meetings outside in King’s House gardens, while following social distancing restrictions, so the community is able to attend.

Currently the town’s council meetings have been streamed on YouTube, which can be accessed by members of the public.

But as councillors can opt out of being on camera, Mr Taylor claims the public are unable to read body language and facial expressions, which reduces transparency.

He said: “Thetford Town Council had a few firsts over the years, so why can’t we be the first to have a proper meeting in the King’s gardens in the open air?

Thetford Town Councillor Roy Brame. Picture: Conor Matchett

Thetford Town Councillor Roy Brame. Picture: Conor Matchett - Credit: Archant

“To have a public meeting online, doesn’t seem right. It’s dehumanising.

“You go into Tesco and everybody is allowed to queue up, come in and stand a distance so we could easily control that in King’s House Gardens.

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“I think Thetford council has got to take the lead and be ready and inspire confidence in the community to get people out and start using businesses again.

“By having the open-air meeting, it would send a massive message to the community.”

But the council’s clerk, Tina Cunnell, said the virtual meetings have been in line with the new legislation and until restrictions have lifted no face-to-face meeting will take place.

Ms Cunnell said: “The government guidelines currently do not allow the meeting of groups not of the same household.

“There is new legislation that covers virtual meetings to which we are fully compliant and therefore transparent.

“If you watch our meeting and other councils’ meetings you will see that some councillors prefer to keep their video off and according to the legislation that’s absolutely fine.”

Fellow Thetford town councillor, Roy Brame, who has been caring for his 92-year-old father during the pandemic, said the council should stick with the “sensible” lockdown measure the government have put in place.

Mr Brame added: “We have virtual meetings and we follow all government guidelines and I personally have a 92-year-old father I’m shielding, and I’m not prepared to put his life at risk.”