Friday, 10 August 2012

Snoring councillors and webcasting - Today's Western Mail

Today's Western Mail reports on a Caerphilly Councillor's call for all 22 local authorities to broadcast their meetings. As I have said, Carmarthenshire council have recently, and with extreme resentment, indicated they may trial webcasting for 12 months, this comes after over a year of thinking about it, and it's still a big 'if'. I suspect that they will have fingers crossed for low viewing figures, actively encourage accusations of 'wasting money', drop the pilot, and go back to sleep, missing the whole 'transparency' point altogether.

The Caerphilly councillor, Ms Blackman echoes my own views on the subject and of course there are other advantages such as the provision of a true record of what was said, and the chance to observe, not just elected members in the Chamber, but our extremely well paid senior officers too.

Lights, camera, action!
Members will have to ensure their  tallies with their signature on the attendance register and there will be no more signing in then popping down to Pembrokeshire to check your sheep (that particular councillor has now lost his seat). We've also had our own fair share of snoring councillors too.

Here's the article, by chief reporter, Martin Shipton;

Campaigner Calls for council meetings to be broadcast online;
All council meetings should be broadcast live on the internet, according to a councillor who has issued a challenge to all 22 unitary authorities in Wales. 
Cllr Anne Blackman, Caerphilly
Anne Blackman, an Independent member of Caerphilly council, said such a move would open up democracy and force councillors to engage with voters in a more accessible way.
She said: “A number of my constituents in Nelson have told me that while they wouldn’t consider travelling miles to attend a council meeting, they’d like the opportunity to be able to watch them live on their computer. 
“I think its a shame in this digital age of computers that few councils broadcast live webcasts of all their full council and committee meeting. In Caerphilly I know that the new council chamber in Tredomen is already wired up to deliver the service. 
“It’s been said that all politics is local politics. If the local public could see these proceedings for themselves, from they own homes, I wonder what they would think of their council and its councillors? I’m sure most of them would find the Budget debates most interesting, as they're the ones paying for it all.” 
Mrs Blackman said she had attended meetings where councillors had gone to sleep.
“If the meetings were broadcast, it might encourage some of the less attentive members to make sure they don’t have a nap. The other day one of them was snoring. 
“I also think people would be shocked to see some of the bullying behaviour that goes on at council meetings. In my opinion there’s no excuse for not opening up our proceedings as widely as possible in the interests of democracy. If we want more people to participate and take an interest, it has to be made as convenient as possible for them.” 
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “The Minister has placed on record his support for the principle of recording and broadcasting council meetings. Modern technology enables this possibility without prohibitive expense. It should be seen as a means of increasing public engagement with their local government.” 
The biggest local authority in Wales already broadcasts some meetings.
A spokeswoman for Cardiff council said: “We have run live web casts of our full council meetings since September 2008.
“The average number of people accessing this service is between 700 and 800 per month with 100 of these watching the web cast live and the remainder accessing the footage from the archives available via the council website.” 
A spokesman for the Welsh Local Government Association said that while some councils were understood to be considering introducing web cams, he was only aware that Cardiff council had so far actually done so. 
In June last year planning campaigner and blogger Jacqui Thompson was arrested after filming a meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council on her mobile phone.
The council said filming meetings was not allowed and it called police as Mrs Thompson refused requests to stop. 
She was arrested at a full council meeting as a petition was presented to councillors over the closure of a day centre in Llandeilo.
Mrs Thompson started filming the meeting from the public gallery at County Hall in Carmarthen. The footage, which was subsequently posted on YouTube, shows Mrs Thompson being repeatedly asked to stop filming. 
She replies: “I'm not doing anything wrong and I'm not disrupting your meeting.”
She said at the time: “I was arrested as they said I was breaching the peace.”
She was held at Llanelli police station until mid afternoon and only released without charge after she agreed not to film a council meeting again. 
“It was very upsetting, very distressing. I think it was a dreadful over-reaction,” she said.
“I feel it is a public arena, they are there to represent the public, they are making decisions on behalf of their constituents. It's about accountability and transparency and I think they should be more open and can't understand why they should have problem.” 
Carmarthenshire council said at the time: “Mrs Thompson refused repeated requests to stop filming proceedings in the chamber which is not allowed. She then refused repeated requests to leave the public gallery.
“The chair was left with no other option than to call the police to remove her from the gallery so that county council business could proceed.” 

The unlawful Carmarthenshire undertaking (this is not part of the WM article)


APTSec said...

The is the link to the webcast page for Highland Council

caebrwyn said...

Thanks @APTSec. All we have so far in Carmarthenshire is this;

Tessa said...

Very interesting reading, especially the opinion of Anne Blackman. Snoring councillors! I can well believe it - I've noticed nodding amongst councillors during meetings too. A former colleague of mine told me of one occasion a councillor slept through a whole motion, waking with a start and voting in favour even though he clearly had no clue what he was voting on (mind you, I suspect that's often the case with those councillors who remain awake)!