Plans for county council staff in Hertfordshire to return to offices, as councillor meetings continue online

Cabinet panel meetings will continue to be held virtually

County councillors in Hertfordshire will continue to hold many of their meetings online.

Decision-making bodies of the county council – including the full council and the cabinet – have been meeting in-person, in line with government legislation, since May.

And some councillors had hoped that from September meetings of cabinet panels – which are ‘advisory’ – would be held in-person too.

Hertfordshire County Council offices

But now it has emerged that cabinet panel meetings will continue to be held virtually.

“Cabinet Panel meetings are continuing to be virtual,” said a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council.

“As advisory rather than formal committees of the council, all cabinet panels are able to be held without in person attendance.

“Cabinet however has been in person in the Council Chamber since May.”

Local authorities had previously been given temporary powers to hold ALL their meetings online, as part of the Coronavirus regulations.

But since those regulations ceased on May 6, the county council has held its full council meetings at the Gordon Craig Theatre, in Stevenage – to allow for social distancing.

The cabinet has met at the theatre, following a full council meeting – and in the council chamber. And a small number of other committees have met in the chamber too.

Meanwhile the county council is drawing up plans for the return of admin staff to council offices later in the year.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the county council has continued to provide a range of vital services out in the community.

But the vast majority of office-based staff have been directed to work from home.

Now officials at the county council have signalled that plans are being put in place for staff to start returning to offices – as part of a mix of working in offices, in communities and remotely.

A county council spokesperson said: “In responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of our workforce who have been able to work from home have continued to do so, with offices being made Covid-secure for those requiring use of offices.

“Going forward, we are working towards a full reopening of our buildings in the autumn and we will continue to review the latest government advice and put in place appropriate measures for the wellbeing and safety of our colleagues.

“When offices do reopen, it is expected that many staff will use them differently to how they did before the pandemic, combining remote and community working with time at offices when needed.”

The details of all the Hertfordshire County Council meetings that can be attended or viewed by the public – in person or virtually – can be found at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk.