Thursday, 5 February 2009

Broadcast council meetings live on the web - Plaid

Wrecsam Council meetings that are open to the public should be broadcast live on the authority's website. That's the view of Plaid Cymru councillors who have requested the move due to concerns about the lack of public engagement between the council and local people.

Plaid Councillor Carrie Harper, who represents Queensway ward, said: "We need openness, transparency and accountability within local government and for the decisions to be open to the scrutiny of the wider public. We want local people to see how the council works.

"Since being elected I have heard many people express concern that the council is too remote. Putting debates on the internet, and having an online archive could see their councillors in action, would create the opportunity for more direct engagement. More and more people are getting internet access so it's one way to improve our local democracy."

Cllr Harper, who was backed by her three Plaid colleagues, added: "It would also give people the opportunity to send in their views after watching debates and to become more involved in the democratic process. I think it's essential that the people of Wrecsam can see that the council are actually accountable to them. Council officers are employed by the people of Wrecsam and we as councillors are elected by the people of Wrecsam, it is only right that the public can see what goes on especially after a series of controversial recommendations made by committees in Wrecsam Council."

"Greater public scrutiny of council meetings will also hopefully increase member involvement and enhance debate, something that has been sadly lacking in some meetings recently."

Councillor Arfon Jones, Plaid's councillor for Gwersyllt West, added: "We need this innovative idea to increase engagement between the council and the public. We need to encourage the public to involve themselves with the council's business. At the moment this is not happening. For example, only 100 people responded to the consultation exercise on this year's £200 million budget and this out of a population of 132,000 people.

"In addition to our calls for these broadcasting meetings, we have also asked that councillors' attendance records are made available online and also that any Freedom of Information requests are available to view."

Wrecsam Council are currently considering the request and Plaid Cymru is hopeful that, due to the ease of access and low cost of the technology required, it can be up and running in the near future.

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