The government has lifted the requirement for hundred of local authorities across the Anglia region and across the country to meet in public and in person during the coronavirus outbreak.

It means councils in England will have new powers to hold public meetings virtually by using video or telephone conferencing technology from Saturday.

The public will still have access to the meetings they can usually attend in person but in future by remote means. The new arrangements will be in place until May 2021.

Local county, district, city and borough councils run many local services from schools to care homes along with transport, planning and rubbish collections.

The government says the move will ensure effective local decision-making and transparency during the national effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“Local authorities are the backbone of our democracy and they are playing a vital role in the national effort to keep people safe. "This change will support them to do that while maintaining the transparency we expect in local decision making.

Robert Jenrick MP, Local Government Secretary
Councils run hundreds of local services like education, social services, transport and rubbish collection. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The change applies to all local authorities in England and covers all categories of public meetings including annual meetings, cabinet and committee meetings.

Public meetings must still be made accessible to the public but it will be up to each council to decide how they conduct the meetings and how voting procedures work.

The Government is also working to bring in new law so that by-elections, local polls and referendums cannot be held before 6 May 2021.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 has already postponed local council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections scheduled in the UK for Thursday 7 May 2020 until 6 May 2021.