Councillors deemed 'foolhardy' after being pinged by Test and Trace during meeting
Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: PA
A number of councillors left a meeting of Herts County Council on Tuesday after at least one councillor was 'pinged' by Test and Trace.
The councillor is believed to have received a ‘ping’ from Test and Trace after the meeting had started, but councillors believe there was a second councillor in the room who had received a ‘ping’ in advance of the meeting.
The situation emerged in response to a point of order raised by Lib Dem Cllr Paul Clark, who asked a question as the formal afternoon session was about to restart.
Advice offered to councillors suggested that the meeting – which was being conducted in a COVID-safe environment – could continue.
Nevertheless a number of councillors opted to leave the meeting, which was held at the Gordon Craig Theatre, in Stevenage, as the first debate of the afternoon was about to start.
Following the meeting, leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst said attendance by those who had been ‘pinged’ had been “foolhardy and misguided” – and he said it gave the wrong message to the public.
He pointed to the number of older councillors present and those who were too young to have been double vaccinated, as being vulnerable. He added he would be seeking further advice from the county council, in case this should occur again with other meetings.
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Labour leader Cllr Judi Billing blamed the situation on unclear advice from the government.
She highlighted the ‘fumbling behaviour’ with regard to the self-isolation implications for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Chancellor, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s positive COVID test.
And she suggested advice has “become increasingly confusing at the highest level of government”.
Opening the afternoon debate, Cllr Tina Bhartwas asked vice chair of the county council Cllr Annie Brewster what the implications were for remaining members at the meeting, following the end of council business, and she was advised that there were no implications.
The meeting is just the second time that the full county council has met ‘in-person’, since the ending of regulations that allowed all council meetings to be held virtually.
The county council had opted to hold the meeting in the theatre rather than the regular council chamber to enable social distancing.
Attendance at the meeting was limited to councillors and essential officers – with the public and the press limited to accessing the meeting via webcast.
Following the meeting a county council spokesperson said: “Advice was provided in advance of today’s full council meeting. It was run in a COVID-secure way, knowing that the prevalence of COVID was rising.
“A small number of people today left the meeting. This included anyone pinged by the app and anyone who felt because of their underlying health condition it would be safer for them to leave."