Hybrid meetings could be the future for council

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Councillors could formally return to the Kilmory chamber by Christmas after a report revealed plans for ‘hybrid’ meetings to take place.

Equipment is currently being installed at the Argyll and Bute Council headquarters in Lochgilphead which will allow members to either attend meetings in person or join remotely.

The council believes the arrangement will offer more flexibility for councillors, many of whom have a round trip of more than 100 miles to and from the authority’s headquarters.

Meetings have been held remotely since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the council recently switching to Microsoft Teams software to include a video function.

That arrangement is set to continue until a full council meeting on Thursday, November 25, when a further update will be given.

The plans were discussed by the full council at its virtual meeting last Thursday, September 30.

The only core council committee meetings due to take place before November 25 are the policy and resources committee on October 14, and two meetings of the planning, protective services and licensing committee.

‘The equipment, which will facilitate hybrid meetings to take place in the council chambers, is being installed and it is expected that installation and testing will be complete by mid-October 2021,’ said executive director Douglas Hendry.

‘Once testing is complete there will be a period of training for staff and familiarisation for members which is expected to be complete by the end of October 2021.

‘This will allow participants at meetings which are held in the council chamber to choose to either attend in person or to join the meeting using Microsoft Teams, dependent on the council’s decision in relation to amendments to the council constitution to accommodate arrangements for hybrid meetings.

‘This will offer much greater flexibility for members and officers.

‘It is proposed to carry out a number of ‘mock’ meetings in advance of going live with any hybrid/live streaming of formal meetings.’

Similar arrangements for other council offices, such as the venues where its four area committees meet four times a year, are also being looked into.

Mr Hendry added: ‘The committee team is working closely with ICT colleagues on this part of the project.

‘We are currently investigating the options for using the software which will be provided as part of the livestreaming phase of the project to enable hybrid meetings to take place in the four areas as well as in the future to allow for live streams of the area committees to take place.

‘The solution for area committees will have an element of mobility that is not present in the solution being delivered in the council chambers, which is more permanent in nature, and the scope and breadth of the service will naturally differ.

‘A further update will be provided to council at the November meeting on the progress of this part of the project.’