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Plan to broadcast Southend Council meetings
COUNCIL meetings could be filmed and broadcast live across the internet to try to boost interest in local politics.
Bosses at Southend Council have drawn up plans to install cameras in the Civic Centre’s main chamber, allowing residents to watch proceedings from the comfort of their own homes.
A video archive of major meetings could also be kept online, meaning web surfers could play them back whenever they wanted.
Nick Corrigan, the council’s head of customer services, said the idea would build trust between the authority and its taxpayers.
He said: “Webcasting may be considered to build trust through transparency, by showing the public the decisions as they are made and enabling accessibility by permitting citizens to choose when and where they watch the webcast, be it live or on demand.”
Live broadcasting of council meetings has become increasingly popular in recent years. After the first trials were held with local government events in the US, the idea spread across the Atlantic over the past decade.
Dozens of authorities, including Belfast, Birmingham and several London boroughs, have now embraced the system.
Viewing figures have ranged from as few as 30 to as many as 1,400, although bosses believe most people will choose to watch archived clips rather than an entire live broadcast.
Castle Point Council, the only authority in south Essex to sign up to the idea, broadcast its first meeting in February 2008.
Mr Corrigan said the impending need to update the microphone system in the Southend Council chamber presented the ideal opportunity to introduce broadcasting. The cameras would be programmed to focus on whoever switched on their microphone to speak, allowing meetings to be broadcast with minimal effort and cost.
Bosses estimate installing the system would cost £62,000, with maintenance and upgrades costing an extra £20,000 annually.
Nigel Holdcroft , the Tory leader of the council, said: “In principle, I am supportive of the idea, which, with modern technology, is becoming easier and cheaper.
“As we try to engage more people in local democracy, it would make meetings easily accessible and members more obviously accountable.”
A final decision on the cameras will be made in November.