A mixture of the pandemic and new legislation have forced a local authority to modernise its constitution, with the public getting a greater say in how it’s run.

Denbighshire council’s full meeting of members today approved changes to its constitution – the bible by which it conducts its business.

Temporary legislation which allowed members to attend meetings remotely because of the pandemic expires on April 30 and is replaced by Section 47 of the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021.

The change means remote attendance is “permitted at all meetings, committees and sub-committees provided those participating are able to speak to and be heard by each other”.

In the case of meetings which are required by law to be broadcast, participants must “be able to speak to and be heard by each other and to see and be seen by each other”.

This means councils must make arrangements for meetings to be held remotely by May 1, hence the change in the authority’s constitution.

Under existing legislation there was no requirement for the council to publicly broadcast meetings although it has been doing so for some since 2013.

The new act means local authorities have to broadcast full council meetings, with other committees expected to be added in the coming months.

The same act has forced a change in the name of the corporate governance and audit committee, by dropping the word “corporate” from the title.

It may seem like a minor detail but it actually heralds one of the most important changes in the act, which will come into force next year.

Rather than checking of governance and audit being done solely by councillors, there is a bigger role for the general public in the new set up.

Not only must a third of the new committee be lay members from next year but that must include the chair.

The act also gives extended powers for the committee, namely its ability to handle complaints effectively, and to order reports and recommendations.

It gives the committee greater powers to hold local authorities to account with more public scrutiny, with the changes coming into force in May 2022.