PLANS to webcast council meetings have proved extremely popular so far – with over 700 people logging-on to see where the latest cuts are likely to fall.
This month Bucks County Council started a 12-month trial of broadcasting its meetings live on the internet.
Recordings of the meetings can be viewed at any time on the council’s equivalent of the BBC iPlayer.
All the meetings are free to watch and the trial is costing £18,628.
Council Leader Martin Tett said: “I am delighted that we have launched this initiative, it is the right thing to do.
“It will change the way people think about the council. Rather than being seen as remote and meeting up in a tower block in Aylesbury this will open the council up.”
The first three meetings to be webcast were the council’s budget examination in public.
The council’s overview and scrutiny committees and cabinet meetings will also be shown. But full-council meetings are unlikely to be filmed until a suitable venue to hold them in can be found – at the moment members meet in the Grade II listed courts building in Aylesbury’s Market Square.
In the future stories about council meetings on the Bucks Herald’s website will contain a link so readers can watch the meeting in full – if they wish.
At each meeting four cameras are attached to the ceiling. Each camera has a pan-tilt-zoom, which can be controlled from the operator’s desk.
The names of the councillors are pre-programmed into the system so that it automatically flashes up with the name of who is speaking.
Critics have pointed out that during the live webcasts there is a slight delay before the names appear – something which is being looked at.
David Shakespeare, chairman of the Budget Scrutiny Group which trialled the new system, said: “I’m pleased and really excited to have been involved in the first meetings broadcast live.
“Webcasting is going to open up local democracy in Buckinghamshire to a much wider and more diverse audience than ever before.
“We are committed to meeting residents’ needs and being open and transparent about our decision-making processes.
“Opening up council meetings for anyone to view online at any time is a really powerful way of achieving that.”
In the future the system will be updated so that viewers can submit questions online during live debates – which the chairman can then ask on their behalf during the meeting. To watch the webcasts click here