Council Meetings 'Rule of Six'

Published: 15 May 2021

Clarification on the ‘Rule of Six’ in relation to meetings of parish councils from 17th May

NALC’s Legal Team has clarified its understanding of the ‘Rule of Six’, insofar as it applies to parish/town council meetings from 17th May until such time as national restrictions are amended or lifted:

1. Parish Councillors plus the Clerk are deemed to be outside the ‘Rule of Six’ for indoor meetings because they form the body corporate which is exempt as a ‘permitted organised gathering’.

2. Members of the public (which would include any District or County Councillors unless they are also a member of the parish council itself) represent the body of persons subject to the ‘Rule of Six’ for indoor meetings.

3. For example, a parish/town council with 18 members may meet (socially distanced) indoors with up to six other persons, provided the meeting room can accommodate them all, socially distanced. Whilst NALC recognises that there is exemption for qualified groups (e.g. members of the same household) which could increase the six persons e.g. five residents from different households and four from one household (making nine persons) which could be argued as complying with the ‘Rule of Six’, this has not been tested in law and NALC advises that parish councils should only permit six persons in addition to the Councillors and Clerk (the body corporate) to attend a parish council meeting indoors at the current time.

4. As mentioned previously, due to the recent High Court judgement, members of the public have a right to attend face-to-face meetings and whilst they can be encouraged to attend via remote means (if available), should more than six members of the public wish to attend a meeting in person, a council may need either to take the meeting outdoors or to adjourn, but are strongly advised against proceeding in an indoor setting. Should such a situation arise in inclement weather, it is recommended council’s so affected should attend to urgent or time critical business only and return to the remaining agenda items after 21st June.