Lewisham Council approved its short-term calendar of virtual meetings at an online urgency committee meeting last week (April 30).  

The agreed calendar includes 14 meetings from May up to July 15.

Planning committees will not meet until June as the council wishes to “walk before it can run” and avoid meetings with public participation until then.  

Introducing the report, director of strategy and communications Fiona Colley said: “On March 17 all council meetings were cancelled in line with the new social distancing rules.  

“Since then new regulations have been introduced that allow us to hold remote public meetings to make our decisions and in line with Lewisham’s commitment to democracy, transparency, and scrutiny, we are all very keen to get back up and running as quickly as we can. 

“As members are well aware though, we are in extraordinary times and the council is working flat out to support residents, our partners, and in particular our most vulnerable residents.  

“So in drawing up these proposals we have sought to strike a balance that allows us to have robust, democratic, transparent and well-scrutinised decision-making while ensuring that the council’s resources remain focused on delivering critical services to our most vulnerable residents.” 

Ms Colley said the council has “sought to walk before we can run”, referring to the “challenges” of online meetings.  

“Both in terms of the size of the committees, the frequency, the complexity of the meetings before we move on to try to run meetings with more public participation and larger membership,” she said.  

There are three meetings scheduled for May, including the overview and scrutiny business panel on May 5 and May 26, and mayor and cabinet on May 13.  

There are eight meetings scheduled for June, including two planning committee meetings on June 4 and 25. 

Ms Colley said: “These are meetings that have much more regular public participation and have a little more complexity and obviously at times contentious decisions to be made. 

“We want to be confident that we can take these decisions safely, robustly, and with minimal risk of challenge so we have allowed ourselves a little bit more time to get used to working this way and make sure we can do things carefully and safely.” 

The licensing committee will meet virtually on June 13, 18 and 30, while mayor and cabinet will take place on June 10.  

The strategic planning committee will meet on June 10, while the overview and scrutiny panel will meet on June 23.  

“At this point we are proposing that no other committees meet unless the proper officer deems that it’s essential for them to do so to take a decision,” Ms Colley said.  

The council’s annual general meeting is due to be held on July 15, after mayor and cabinet on July 8.  

A provisional calendar of meetings from July 16 to August 28 has also been set out, including a planning committee meeting on July 16, August 6 and 25, an overview and business panel meeting on July 21 and August 18, a licensing committee meeting on July 30, August 11 and 27, a mayor and cabinet meeting on August 12.  

The calendars are under review and subject to change.