Empty City Council meeting room.

City of Helsinki shifts to remote meetings in decision-making

The Helsinki City Council considered at its meeting of 25 March revisions to the City of Helsinki Rules of Governance concerning the administrative body responsible for fighting infectious diseases, the powers of the City Council Chair and remote meetings. The City Council approved the revisions as urgent matters. 

Consequently, the powers as defined in the Communicable Diseases Act are transferred from their current holder, that is, the sub-committee of the Social Services and Health Care Committee, to the City Board. 

The tasks referred to in the Communicable Diseases Act, including closing dwellings, prohibitions against public meetings and closing facilities, involve significant exercise of public powers. In this event, it is natural that the decision-making body is the most central operative administrative body of the City. 

Decision-making by remote means 

The revision of the Rules of Governance also allows meetings to be held remotely and decisions to be made without assembly. Remote participation in meetings is not meant to be a normal procedure, but the opportunity to do so provides flexibility in deciding on the circumstances in which remote participation is allowed. 

In order to retain meeting confidentiality, it is vital that meeting participants join remote meetings only from such locations in which confidential information and the discussions conducted in meetings cannot be heard or seen by outsiders. Remote participation in meetings sets participants in heightened responsibility to ensure that the space from which they join a meeting is not attended by others and that information revealed in closed meetings held remotely is not passed on to outsiders. 

Decisions on remote City Council meetings are made by the City Council Chair. Decisions on arrangements for meetings of other administrative bodies are made by the City Board. 

City Council Chair can grant permission to extend deadlines 

A section was added to the Rules of Governance that allows the City Council Chair to grant the City Board permission for a special reason to extend the periods within which initiatives, interpellations and requests for resolutions must be responded to as defined in the Rules of Governance. Under circumstances in which the City Board decision-making and preceding preparation must be refocused on more urgent matters, it is appropriate that resources should not necessarily be used for the preparation of other matters.