All but ‘essential’ meetings of Shropshire Council have been called off to reduce the risk to members and officers during the coronavirus outbreak.

The authority’s Cabinet is set to meet next week and will be able to make decisions as long as the quorum of three councillors is met.

Those who are unable to attend in person will be allowed to call in to the meeting to join discussions, but in line with current legislation only those present will be allowed to vote.

Where meetings are cancelled, decisions which should have been taken by elected members could instead be delegated to officers.

An email to councillors from Claire Porter, the council’s head of legal and democratic services, said: “It is agreed by the chief executives in consultation with the leader that committee meetings will only be called if there is business that is essential, as determined by the chair and relevant lead officer.

“Cabinet will take place next week as long as a quorum of cabinet members are present.

“The room will be set up with space for everyone to sit a safe distance apart.

“Other Cabinet members and group leaders will be given the opportunity to phone in and contribute but those Cabinet members not present in the room will not be able to vote in accordance with the current law.

“This approach will be taken for other convened meetings for example planning committees.  As long as a quorum is present in the room then decisions can be taken.”

The government is considering new legislation in light of the current crisis to allow meetings to be held virtually if needed. Under the Local Government Act 1972, members have to be physically present at a meeting in order to vote.

Ms Porter said the council would update members if there was a change in the law.

She added: “We are trying to address member meetings in a pragmatic way and, where it is possible, allow officer delegations to make decisions in consultation with relevant members.”

But this has caused concern among some councillors who argue delegating decisions is not democratic.

Councillor Roger Evans, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, said: “I have expressed a wish that a means needs to be found to enable elected members to make certain decisions like planning applications.

“I would not be happy to delegate all of these to officers.

“There is a need to have these meetings even if it does involve a reduced number of members.”