A DIVIDE has opened up over whether councils should be holding face-to-face meetings amid surging numbers of Covid infections.

As North Yorkshire's top tier authority agreed to continue measures to enable it to hold all its meetings online, five out of the county's seven district and borough councils said they would stage all their meetings in council chambers.

Many local authorities have expressed frustration after the government declined to extend the permission it gave during lockdown for decision-making council meetings to be held online, saying meetings should be held in person with appropriate social distancing measures.

However, critics have accused the government of hypocrisy, highlighting how relatively empty the House of Commons continues to be during debates as MPs are allowed to join parliamentary discussions online.

Earlier this year a number of councils in the region, including North Yorkshire and Richmondshire, moved to side-step the rules by empowering senior officers to authorise or decline councillors' recommendations.

A full meeting of the county council, which was held online and had a, saw Richard Flinton, the authority's chief executive agree to continue with the extra responsibility whilst the circumstances and transmission rates were uncertain.

The authority's leader Councillor Carl Les said councillors had agreed a "pragmatic approach to meetings" as protecting staff was important.