Tuesday 29 January 2013

Filming meetings - there's no excuse now

The Welsh Government have announced that they are allocating £1.25m to help councils 'improve local democracy and public engagement'. This includes £40,000 apiece to 'promote' the broadcasting of meetings and remote attendance of meetings by councillors. It also includes a few quid to help Town and Community Councils develop their own websites.

"Minister for Local Government and Communities Carl Sargeant said: “I want to give as many people as possible access to the proceedings of local government, just as they already have for bodies such as the Assembly and Parliament.
“In a modern democracy, the development of the communications technology means that members of the public should be able to see how decisions affecting their everyday lives are taken.”

The principle of remote attendance by Members is to encourage a wider selection of the population to stand for election, young mothers for instance. Not quite sure how that one will work out in practice. Carmarthenshire Councillors are already supplied with laptops etc so the £40,000 could be spent on broadcasting. One excuse in Carmarthenshire was that, despite having chewed over it all for 18 months and recommended some sort of filming pilot, no cash had been earmarked for it. Well now it has. A criteria for getting the money should be that all meetings are livestreamed and not recorded and censored as Carmarthenshire council is hoping to get away with.

It's a welcome gesture of course but a far greater shift in attitude is required. You would have thought that if Carl Sargeant had been so concerned about 'access to the proceedings of local government' he may have had a word with Carmarthenshire about their entry restrictions over the past couple of years. As for the entire concept of local democracy, I'm not going to repeat everything I've said for the past four years but suffice to say, the Kremlin on the Towy is in dire need of a few basic lessons.

Western Mail article here.

As a bit of an update, the minutes from the last council meeting have been published which yet again shows just how important it is to record the proceedings of Carmarthenshire County Council.

As reported on Cneifiwr's blog, at the start of the meeting, when the previous minutes were up for approval, Plaid's Glynog Davies asked why his question to the Chief Executive about the council's blacklisting of the South Wales Guardian wasn't in the minutes. An amendment was then put forward to try and provide a glimmer of accuracy. It was even voted on, but rejected, presumably by the loyal Lab/Ind members.

It goes without saying, there's no mention of any of this in the newly published minutes either.
Of course we also know that the Plaid motion on 'press freedom' didn't even make it onto the agenda.

Update 10th February;

BBC Wales has picked up the story and has asked all 22 local authorities what their plans are with regard to webcasting meetings - Carmarthenshire council, as you will notice from the article, seems to be keeping very quiet on the subject.
Councils to screen meetings online in £1.25m project


caebrwyn said...

According to the minutes from the last full council meeting, officers are due to meet with the technologically enlightened Brecon Beacons National Park Authority to 'see if it was possible to share the cost'. The BBNPA started webcasting their meetings last year. http://www.breconbeacons.public-i.tv/core/

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

I'm going to ask for an amendment to the Local Democracy Bill to allow broadcasting AND of course social media!

Cneifiwr said...

Yes, I spotted that interesting ommission from the minutes which bore even less resemblance to what happened at the meeting than is usual, even in Carmarthenshire.

The minutes merely state that the minutes of the previous council meeting were approved.

There was also no mention of the row at the end of the meeting when it became clear that AOB had been dropped from the agenda.

Anonymous said...

I work for Cornwall council. They webcast their meetings but block their employees from watching sometimes saying they have "bandwidth" issues.

Heard you on the radio today - keep up the good work