A LOCAL authority is set to hold its first meeting in public with councillors since lockdown measures launched in March.

Darlington Borough Council has announced the democratic process will resume, but only with remote meetings to maintain social distancing.

All 50 elected members of the authority will be invited to attend a full meeting of the authority on Thursday, but instead of the town hall, the venue for all but a few councillors will be Microsoft Teams.

Only councillors involved in the mayoral handover are expected at the town council.

The authority’s deputy leader, Councillor Charles Johnson said: “The mayoral ceremony will not feature the usual pomp and circumstance. We don’t like messing around with the mayoral procedures, which have been in place for a long time and everyone respects them, but we have been pushed into a corner.”

It had previously been hoped the meeting could be held in the sports hall of the Dolphin Centre to enable councillors to maintain social distancing, but an officers’ report states at present the attendance by members ‘in person’ at meetings is only permissible when attendance is “reasonably necessary”.

The report states: “Considering the current public health risks, it will be difficult to justify holding in person meetings at the present time when it is possible to run remote meetings.”

Officers said remote meetings presented no risk from attendance. It has previously been highlighted that the age of many of the councillors puts them in the higher risk Covid-19 categories. The report states: “For some members who are shielding or in a vulnerable category. or whose families include someone in a

vulnerable group, this may be the only way that they are able to participate. All meetings during the pandemic will at the very least need to have the possibility of members joining remotely.”

Cllr Johnson added the council was keen to resume in person meetings. He said: “Face-to-face meetings are a much better way of doing business. You get a better idea of what the views are.”