Updated 22 April to include information about existing licenses customers may have that provide this capability.

New regulations came into force on 4 April 2020 allowing local authorities to hold public meetings using audio or video conferencing. Many local authorities will now be considering how to hold virtual council meetings during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.

If you don’t already have this capability in your council, then it’s possible to procure audio and video conferencing services quickly and easily through Crown Commercial Service frameworks. Both Network Services 2 and G-Cloud 11 offer straightforward routes to market. 

We’ve outlined a few common queries to help you get started.

Do my existing licenses provide this capability?

Some organisations have existing license investments enabling them to hold audio and video conferencing as well as virtual council meetings. 

Microsoft

Many Microsoft customers already qualify to use Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Stream through their existing Office365 licenses. You are advised to talk to your Microsoft account team if you require further information.

If you are a Microsoft customer but do not have Office 365, you may qualify for Microsoft’s offer of a free 6 month Office 365 E1 Trial, which includes Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Stream. A Microsoft account and/or organisational account is required for taking advantage of this free trial license. Again, you are advised to talk to your Microsoft account team if you require further information.

Google

All existing G Suite customers can use advanced Google Meet video conference features, such as larger meetings (up to 250 participants) and live streaming for an audience up to 100,000 until 30 September 2020.

How can I purchase audio or video conferencing?

Lot 8 (video conferencing services) and Lot 9 (audio conferencing services) on Network Services 2 are both ideal routes to market for this requirement. Both direct award (catalogue purchasing) and further competition are available for both lots. The documents section of the Network Services 2 web page has buyer guidance for both procurement routes.

If you’re considering using Zoom, a quick to implement route to market is available on G-Cloud 11 through the Digital Marketplace. Please email WFHProjectTaskForce@crowncommercial.gov.uk with ‘G-Cloud 11 / Zoom’ in the subject line for further information. There is a minimum order level of 10 licenses.

Should we offer the meeting as audio only, or audio and visual?

It can often be easier to follow who’s speaking if you have video as well as audio, but this decision is entirely up to your organisation. Both options can be procured easily and quickly through Network Services 2 (Lots 9 and 8 respectively) and G-Cloud 11. 

Should we cap the number of attendees?

This is at your council’s discretion. If you wish, you could cap the number of attendees at the capacity of the room the meeting would normally have been held in. But moving to a virtual platform also offers a good opportunity for increased accessibility, transparency and openness.

How do we moderate the meeting?

Many conferencing facilities give the host admin rights, which allows them to do things like holding attendees in a virtual lobby before admitting them to the meeting, and muting and unmuting participants.

How quickly could we implement a solution?

Procuring a solution through either Network Services 2 or G-Cloud 11 can be done quickly if your requirements are clear and straightforward. For Network Services 2, a speedy award is also reliant on product listings (‘Service Offers’) that meet your requirements already being published on the eMarketplace, which is the catalogue used for direct awards through this framework

We’re here to help

If you need further guidance or advice on purchasing a conferencing service for council meetings, please email WFHProjectTaskForce@crowncommercial.gov.uk.