Public had to take Covid test to attend council meeting but councillors didn’t
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
Members of the public had to take a lateral flow test before they could attend a council meeting, but councillors and staff didn’t.
At the trial at Abergele Town Council members of the public had to be tested for Covid-19 to attend the meeting in person for the first time since lockdown, but one councillor admitted the rules are confusing and “very unclear”.
Councillors across the UK have attended meetings throughout the coronavirus pandemic virtually, via online apps such as Zoom.
But hybrid meetings are now being rolled out at which some councillors call in remotely and others physically attend town halls.
After taking advice from independent safety advisers, Abergele Town Council insisted that any member of the public or press who attended last night’s executive meeting had to provide a negative test or photographic proof of it.
Cllr Delyth MacRae sits on the town council and is a member of Conwy County Council’s Standards Committee, who debated the trial yesterday.
She said: “I think the rules are very unclear. We need to be safe. But there is an unfair balance, isn’t there? The councillors don’t have to take a test, but nobody knows where I’ve been that day, but if you’re a member of the public, you’ve got to take a test.
“What’s the difference because, before we went into the council meeting that night, we were the general public, weren’t we?
“The rules are not clear. It’s very cloudy, isn’t it? If I was a member of the public, yes, I would do it, but I think the councillors should do it. Everybody should do it, not just visitors.”
A spokesperson for Abergele Town Council said the safety advice was given by their independent advisers, Safety Focus.
In a statement issued on Monday, they said: “We are on a trial at the moment. We have our very first trial meeting (on Monday) so it’s really early days, but what our risk assessor has suggested is that if people who are not normal to our council, who are not members or who are not staff want to come to face-to-face meetings, they need to have a lateral flow test on arrival or have one themselves and screenshot it and show it, so we can know within a short window they have had that done, just as a precaution.
Last night’s meeting was an executive meeting, “so it has only got half a dozen people on the committee, so we are just having a play, for want of a better word, to see if our technology is going to work”.