Fife Council’s co-leaders have conceded the local authority has changed forever as they prepare to outline the region’s road map to recovery.
Councillors are expected to log on to a specially convened virtual full Fife Council meeting on Thursday that will give them a chance to discuss the organisation’s handling of the crisis and determine action to get services back to some semblance of normality as soon as possible.
They will be asked to rubber-stamp plans to hold all of 2020’s remaining committee meetings remotely.
Only a handful of committees have been held since meetings were suspended in March, and all but licensing board meetings – which require involvement from applicants – will remain online until at least the start of 2021.
Fife faces an estimated £19 million budget shortfall due to anticipated Covid-19 related costs of up to £86 million.
In a joint report, council leaders David Alexander and David Ross said: “It is fair to say that the events from March give some credence to the view that the council in terms of the way it operates will not be the same again, operationally and politically.
“The administration is looking at the way the political structure can reflect the requirement to become more nimble, and adaptable, to the new ways of working that will allow the council and Fife to recover from the disaster that we have all witnessed, and are still witnessing.”
Independent councillor Linda Holt said democracy and public accountability have “clearly been a very low priority” in Fife, suggesting other Scottish councils were able to “get their act together” earlier.
“The question that is begged here is why on earth it has taken Fife Council over four months to have a full council meeting or reinstate all their committees.
“One issue with online meetings is that it gives convenors extraordinary power to mute elected members when they say things they do not like.
“Having been on the receiving end of such treatment, it is to be hoped that convenors of online committees are acutely aware of the potential to abuse this power.
“On the other hand, putting all council meetings online gives the public a new opportunity to see what their elected representatives do, and I hope many Fifers will use that opportunity.”
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