‘Hybrid’ council meetings will continue in Harrow for at least the next two months despite some calls to return to full physical sittings.

Cllr Graham Henson (Lab, Roxbourne), leader of Harrow Council, explained it would continue to run meetings where at least a quorum of councillors will physically attend while other committee members and participants will dial in via phone or online.

He said it would be unsuitable for full meetings to return at present due to the additional measures required to make venues Covid safe, though he accepted government legislation that came into force from May 7 meant there had to be some face-to-face proceedings.

Last week, the council held the first meeting of this style at cabinet and Cllr Henson noted this would remain the case until Covid guidance is updated.

“Under legislation, this is an actual meeting and a number of others have been scheduled for June and July,” he said.

“Although virtual meetings have been stopped by Government, we do still come under Covid regulations, which controls the number of people gathering indoors in a safe manner.

“Until there is any change to social distancing and building safety rules – which is unlikely to happen before July – there are many practical barriers to in person meetings.”

He added the current system gives more members of the public the opportunity to engage with local democracy, something that will be considered under a review in the future.

It came as Cllr Richard Almond (Con, Pinner South) suggested more could be done to ensure all councillors could return to the civic centre where necessary and accused the administration of deliberately slowing things down.

He said the issue continues to be “kicked into the long grass”, referencing a council report that suggested hybrid meetings will continue until at least September with “no further details” for after this date.

“I suspect, as an administration, it suits you perfectly well to have these meetings where question and answer sessions are mannered and stilted,” he said.

“We have no proper debate or exchange going back and forth – that makes [your] job that much easier and our job as an opposition that much more difficult.”