COUNCILS across Oxfordshire are awaiting government guidance about whether they can make decisions through virtual meetings.

The coronavirus act, which was passed through parliament last week, included a section which said the secretary of state for local government, Robert Jenrick, could decide how councils might be able to continue their meetings under the pandemic lockdown.

Council meetings across the UK have been postponed or cancelled as a means to promote social distancing.

Under current laws, councillors cannot vote or make decisions about services they run unless they are all in the same room together, usually in a council building.

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But a spokesman for the ministry of housing, communities and local government said: "We intend to legislate so that... while essential council meetings should continue, these will be able to take place remotely for a temporary period."

The coronavirus act provides a framework to allow the government to loosen these rules at some point in the near future.

Some councils had already suggested holding meetings virtually via Skype, Zoom, Teams or other similar conference call apps.

Following the coronavirus act, an Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said: "Councils are eagerly awaiting the new regulations that will enable council meetings to take place virtually."While the detail of the regulations are awaited, consideration is being given to how technology could be used to facilitate this."

Oxfordshire's district councils and Oxford City Council also confirmed they were currently awaiting the regulations from the government allowing them to meet remotely.

The government has already taken historic first steps to meet via video conference call.