Local Democracy Weekly: How coronavirus put the brakes on open democracy

North East Lincolnshire was the first domino to fall when it came to open democracy as coronavirus began to tighten its grip on Greater Lincolnshire.

As one council fell, the others followed suit and meetings were cancelled across the board.

Public buildings, such as leisure centres and museums, were closed as resources were streamlined and focused on providing critical services.

Local elections have also fallen victim to the virus, postponing polling day for both councillors and Police and Crime Commissioners to next year.


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But, while council leaders published open letters with defiant messages, some have been candid.

Philip Jackson, leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, said the virus was about to stretch already under pressure services.

He assured people that council officers are reviewing the situation on a daily basis and will continue to do so.

COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis for both local and national government.

For council leaders, the situation is about providing necessary services and communicating to people.

Lincolnshire County Council leader, Martin Hill, has taken to Facebook Live to address the county and provide updates on council services.

Meanwhile, Rob Waltham, leader of North Lincolnshire Council, said all efforts should be focused on providing services for the vulnerable.

While all efforts are going into providing those services which are critical, open democracy has fallen by the wayside.

Formal meetings, where key decisions are made and seen to be made, are postponed until further notice.

Some are still going ahead, such as essential planning committees, but with a smaller number of councillors and no public participation.

It’s strange times for Lincolnshire and it will be for months. Coronavirus has taken livelihoods, education and social lives.

It’s now added open democracy to its list

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