Council chiefs have come under fire for defying Scottish Government guidelines and “opening up the risk of infections” by staging meetings in person.
Members of Aberdeen City Council’s licensing committee will gather at the Town House on Broad Street for the first time in months tomorrow.
Opposition councillors have urged convener John Reynolds to move the meeting online to protect their own health and that of local authority employees.
But the veteran Bridge Of Don councillor claims he is sticking to the rules set out by the council’s urgent business committee last month, and pushing ahead with the in-person meeting.
The decision comes despite the Scottish Government advice remaining that remote working should remain the “default position” for those who can.
Speaking at the end of last week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke out against UK Government plans encouraging people to return to the office and argued that the continued approach in Scotland was being followed “in the context of suppressing the virus”.
It also comes despite neighbouring Aberdeenshire Council confirming it will not be holding any meetings in person until next year.
Aberdeen councillors have been meeting on a limited schedule since March, using video conferencing software to conduct business from home.
It is still understood to be within a committee convener’s gift to hold the meeting over the internet if needed.
Opponents have called for the talks tomorrow to be held online over safety concerns but claim Mr Reynolds had insisted on the Town House meeting.
Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill said: “Holding this meeting in person will involve opening up the Town House and bringing councillors and staff into a building where, regardless of the mitigation put in place, you will inevitably will be opening up to a risk of infections.
“My understanding is councillors and at least a handful of officers needed to run the meeting have to be there in the flesh – that’s inexcusable.
“It’s highly unsatisfactory, I know council staff are very unhappy about attending meetings in person.
“There is absolutely no reason for it to happen, the power certainly exists to move it online.”
SNP councillor Gill Al-Samarai told The P&J she “could not believe” remote access wasn’t the go-to option.
She said: “The default position is to work from home where possible but it seems Councillor Reynolds and the administration would rather risk the safety of officers and fellow members which is utterly disgraceful.”
Other committee meetings last week were held online, although Mr Reynolds said that was because new technology, to enable video calling, was being installed ahead of this week’s return to the chamber.
And he insisted that other committee members could call in instead of attending in person, if they wished.
He said: “I have been isolating since March 20.
“It is a concern to many of us going back into the council chamber but it is not a decision I took alone: I have just gone with what the officer advice was.
“The meetings last week did not take place in person because the technology was confirmed before the conveners set the meetings, so they took the decision to do it online.
“When I met officers online, I was told everything is in place, ready to go, been tested, everything will be live and that follows the instruction from the urgent business committee.”
Mr Reynolds said no council officers had raised health and safety concerns with him and therefore his “assumption is everything is fine”.
“I’m an open individual and if people had those concerns they could speak to me about them,” he added.