Shropshire's fire authority has agreed to postponed its AGM until autumn for the sake of “consistency and stability” during the coronavirus crisis.
Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority, the body that governs the county’s fire service, usually meets in early summer to elect members to key roles and appoint members to its committees.
In a report, chairman Eric Carter said it was legally and logistically possible to do so on June 24, as originally planned, using videoconferencing technology, but added that “a change-around of members in key roles” could cause “greater confusion in an already challenging period”, and suggested deferring it until October.
The fire authority, which consists of 15 elected members from Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin councils, agreed to the proposal.
Cllr Carter, a Conservative member of Telford and Wrekin Council, noted that the 1972 Local Government Act requires public authorities to hold AGMs, but added that a new law, passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allows meetings to be held online and annual meetings to be postponed until a later date.
He said he and the authority’s other group leaders had discussed the “merits and challenges” both maintaining the June date and delaying until October 14 would pose.
“The risk is that, if there were a change-around of members in key roles, this could cause greater confusion in an already challenging period of governance,” he said.
“However, members have also stated openly how important it is for democratic process to be followed so any decision to defer and AGM can only be made by the full fire authority.”
It was for this reason, he said, an additional one-item online meeting was added to the schedule.
Councillor Nigel Hartin, a Liberal Democrat member of Shropshire Council, said: “Given the current situation we are under, a period of stability would be advantageous for the authority for the time being.”
Labour Telford and Wrekin councillor Kuldip Sahota said he supported the proposal as well, and Conservative Shropshire councillor Paul Wynn said “a change of names and faces just seems madness”.
All 11 fire authority members who attended the meeting voted in favour of deferral.