Great Britain

First physical Council meeting since beginning of Pandemic to be held at Alhambra next week

THE first in-person meeting of Bradford Council since the beginning of the Covid pandemic will take place in the Alhambra Theatre next week.

The iconic theatre was chosen to host the Annual Meeting of the Council on Tuesday because no space in City Hall, even the Council Chamber, was big enough to allow everyone to attend and keep a safe distance from each other.

When the virus began spreading across the country in March 2020 the Government amended local authority rules to allow meetings to continue online.

Since then Bradford Council's meeting have been held on Zoom, and live streamed for people to watch at home.

But the Government has ordered meetings to be held in person from this week, despite concerns from authorities across the country that they would struggle to find space for people to meet and remain socially distant.

The Annual Council meeting is the event where Bradford installs its new Lord Mayor. This year current Deputy Lord Mayor Shabir Hussain will take on the role - and will be handed the chains next Tuesday.

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The event is the biggest Council meeting of the year. As well as featuring all 90 Councillors, it is attended by Council officers, other civic dignitaries and members of the press.

The Council says that with the high number of guests, the decision was taken to move the meeting to the Alhambra Theatre.

And new venues may need to be found for future meetings if large numbers of people are expected to attend.

A Council spokesman said: "With social distance guidelines still being in place, a large meeting like Full Council with all 90 members cannot be held in the Council Chamber at City Hall. An alternative venue had to be found to enable social distancing, so it was decided that the most suitable place was the Alhambra.

"All future committee or panel meetings will need to be assessed for numbers involved so that it can be decided whether they can be held in City Hall or another venue."

Although many council meetings, including scrutiny committees, are attended by just a dozen or so people, meetings about more controversial topics such as contentious planning applications can attract scores of people.

Cllr Hussain was originally due to be Lord Mayor for the 2020/21 municipal year. But the pandemic led to the decision to keep existing mayor, Doreen Lee, in post for another year.

The role of Bradford Mayor dates back to 1847, when it was an elected role.

Since 1906 the role has been a ceremonial one, with a different Councillor appointed each year.

Although they have no political power, apart from chairing full Council meetings, they act as the face of the District for their year in office, representing Bradford at functions such as Remembrance services.

They also raise funds for the Lord Mayor's Charity. Each year the mayor chooses the charity that will benefit through the mayor's numerous fundraising events, such as the annual Dragonboat Festival.

When Cllr Hussain takes on the role it will be the first time since 2017 that the position is held by a Councillor from outside of Keighley.

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