A town councillor has blasted a decision to conduct an upcoming meeting over Zoom, claiming it shows ‘an appalling lack of respect’ for residents.

But the town’s mayor hit back, saying remote meetings had allowed more residents to take part in local democracy.

Winsford Town Council recently voted to conduct Monday’s meeting of Full Council over Zoom rather than in-person, but Independent councillor for Wharton David Edwards has criticised the decision.

Councils up and down the country began meeting remotely during the Covid outbreak, with emergency legislation being introduced to allow votes which usually had to be made in person, to carry the same weight when voted on virtually.

But that legislation has since lapsed, which means that virtual meetings can only serve to give an indication of a councillor’s choice when voting, but legal sign off of a decision has to take place after the meeting itself using other legislation.

Cllr Edwards said: “In an online meeting of the council, any votes taken are indicative only with decisions being made by the clerk and the town mayor."

He claimed the decision was an attempt to ‘stop real openness’ by removing the right of councillors to debate and vote ‘in a meaningful way’ on council business, a claim strongly refuted by the town’s mayor, Cllr Nathan Pardoe.

Cllr Pardoe said: “More residents than ever before have been able to watch Winsford Town Council meetings since they moved online during the pandemic.

“Residents have told us that thanks to the changes they are, for the first time, able to take part.

“Cheshire West and Chester Council is meeting virtually in October, and a cross-party majority of councillors at Winsford Town Council have decided to do the same.

“These meetings will be informal due to the legislation governing councils, but recommendations will be implemented in accordance with the wishes of the meeting.”