Published: 13:20, 24 May 2021
| Updated: 12:25, 25 May 2021
Face to face meetings are returning to local democracy.
Dover District Council, Dover Town Council and Walmer Parish Council are among the first to have them as coronavirus lockdown continues to ease.
Walmer members met again at their offices for a human resources committee meeting on Wednesday, May 12, after a year of Zoom debates.
They met with their new clerk, Richard Styles.
Cllr Charlie Weale, who was elected as committee chairman, had been co-opted onto the council during the lockdown using a Zoom selection process.
He now said: " It was a real pleasure to meet up with colleagues that I have only known through Zoom meetings."
All those present were socially distanced and wore face masks.
The Walmer Parish Council office on The Strand will be open every day from 9am until 1pm.
Dover Town Council had its first in-person meeting last Thursday when Cllr Gordon Cowan was elected mayor for the third consecutive year.
He welcomed Cllr Andy Calder who gained his seat in a by-election in the St Radigund's ward on May 6.
The council also received a presentation from Noel Beamish of the Dover Outreach Centre for the homeless in Snargate Street.
The group is opening its Sunrise community café next to its main base on July 3.
The town council meeting took place at St Mary's Parish Hall, rather than the authority's Biggin Street offices, to allow social distancing.
Dover District Council also had its first in-person meeting since the first lockdown in March 2020. This was with a cabinet meeting on Monday, May 17, followed by its annual meeting last Wednesday.
Its safety measures include a reduced capacity for members of the public to attend the debating chamber at the authority's Whitfield headquarters.
Council leader Trevor Bartlett said: “As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, enabling us to meet in person again, we look forward to an exciting year ahead for Dover district, with a range of major projects coming together. "
The public will still have the option of watching meetings live online, following the success of this throughout the lockdowns.
This is for the following meetings: planning, cabinet, full council, overview and scrutiny, governance, and general purposes.
A link to view these meetings continues to be available on the council web page for the agenda a couple of days before the meeting.
Because of the coronavirus restrictions members of the public attending meetings are not allowed to speak.
It will be allowed once the last lockdown restrictions are nationally lifted, which is still scheduled for June 21.
Until then, an officer will read out a written statement from a member of the public of up to 500 words.
At the annual meeting Cllr Michael Conolly was elected as the chairman of the council for 2021/22 and Cllr David Hannent as vice-chairman.
Cabinets and shadow cabinets were confirmed for the year.
One major difference is that Cllr Nigel Collor has stepped down as portfolio holder for planning, transport and regulatory service.
He was first appointed to the cabinet in 2003, and is the only councillor to have served continuously on it since then.
Cllr Bartlett said: “We’d like to take this chance to thank Cllr Collor for his long service."
The cabinet for 2021 is as follows, with their shadow counterparts in brackets.
Leader: Trevor Bartlett (Kevin Mills). Deputy Leader: MJ Holloway (Pam Brivio). Inward investment and tourism: MJ Holloway (Linda Keen). Community, environment and corporate property: Oliver Richardson (Helen Williams). Housing and health: Derek Murphy (Pam Brivio).
Planning, transport and regulatory services: Nicholas Kenton (Edward Biggs). Finance, governance and digital: Chris Vinson (Susan Beer).