by Jeremy Rowe on 12 August, 2010
Today I attended a meeting of the small working party set up to advise Cornwall Council on its pilot programme for webcasting meetings. Part of the purpose of the meeting was to review the success (or otherwise) of the experiment so far, but the other aspect was to consider what the next steps should be.
It’s probably fair to say that the pilot has been more successful than any of us expected, certainly in terms of people logging in and watching, with the live and archived webcasts having been viewed over 16,000 times. It certainly seems that there is an appetite for seeing how decisions affecting Council Tax payers’ money are made, and this is especially the case for the archived recordings which allow the viewer to skip directly to the agenda item which is of particular interest to them. As a working party, we were therefore unanimous in recommending to September’s Full Council that the current experimental arrangement should be made permanent.
The question we then had to consider was whether to extend the pilot to other meetings of the Council. After some discussion of the practicalities of setting up cameras in the Trelawney Room (New County Hall’s main committee room) we felt that a gentle progression made more sense than simply opting to roll out the technology across all meetings and buildings of the Council. With that in mind we will be recommending to Council that meetings of the Cabinet, Cornwall Council’s main decision-making body, and certain Planning meetings should be broadcast to establish the level of interest in these areas.
My guess is that the webcasting of Planning meetings will probably prove to be a major step forward in making the decision-making process more accessible to the Council Tax payer, particularly here in the east of Cornwall. Currently Planning meetings alternate between Liskeard and Camelford which means that there is often a long distance for people to travel if they want to hear the debate on a certain application. The journey from Bude to Liskeard is certainly not a quick dash, and neither is the drive from Torpoint to Camelford, so hopefully these meetings will eventually be webcast so that people can see how their Councillor has represented the views of their area on any given application. Since Planning is often the area that most directly affects local residents, I would hope that this will prove to be a useful resource.
The beauty of webcasting meetings is that it makes ‘the process’ accessible to more people than the traditional practice of simply opening the public galleries to people at times and locations which can often be inconvenient. I firmly believe webcasting is here to stay and that, before too long, people will demand as a right the opportunity to see how their money is being spent and how those crucial decisions were reached.
(To view archived recordings of previous Cornwall Council meetings click here.)Leave a comment