OPPOSITION councillors have joined forces to demand Barnsley Council reinstate its full calendar of meetings that have been postponed due to lockdown measures.

They say the council should look to hold meetings virtually in the interest of democracy, as social distancing measures look set to continue.

A letter to council bosses has been sent by Coun Jake Lodge, an independent, and Liberal Democrat group leader Coun Hannah Kitching.

In the letter, addressed to council leader Sir Steve Houghton and chief executive Sarah Norman, councillors say that although they understand the impact coronavirus has had on holding meetings, now is the time that the ‘democratic process should continue in full’.

It states: “We have now come together across party lines to call for the full restoration of the council’s timetable and committee structures, with immediate effect.

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“We have seen that the technology is available to allow this to happen, with successful committee meetings being held and streamed online with great success.

“Now is a time that our democratic process should continue in full, with clear scrutiny of decisions made and as much transparency as possible as we face head on the Covid-19 crisis.”

Coun Lodge, who represents Worsbrough, said: “As lockdown commenced all council meetings were suspended. Cabinet has been operating virtually for many weeks now, with other committees operating in a reduced form.

“It is likely that social distancing will continue for some time, so I felt it was time to come together across party lines to ask for the meetings and council timetable to be reinstated in full.”

Coun Kitching, of Penistone West, added: “My group and I were delighted to sign this letter. I had already raised the matter in an informal manner with the leader and chief executive, but it is clear this needs to now be addressed formally.

“It has been disappointing to see the number of members sitting on both planning and scrutiny boards being reduced, and very concerning to hear that scrutiny has been capped at 1 hour.

“If the House of Lords and the House of Commons can operate virtually using Zoom then I feel confident that Barnsley Council can carry out its full and proper meeting agenda.”

The opposition councillors have received a response from Sir Steve saying that Ms Norman is looking at the matter.