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Southend councillors criticise plans for meetings to be filmed
8:00pm Thursday 4th October 2012 in Echo News
COUNCILLORS have rubbished plans to film their meetings and broadcast them live across the internet to try to boost interest in local politics. Bosses at Southend Council have drawn up proposals 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. But councillors from all parties claimed the service would too costly and unlikely to attract many viewers when they were asked for their opinions. Martin Terry, spokesman for Southend’s Independent group, said: “It is an extravangance too far. “We can’t justify it at the current time.” Tory councillor Mark Flewitt added: “There are dire viewing figures for the local authorities which have already gone down this path.” 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. Southend Council officers said the impending need to update the microphone system in the main 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. A final decision on the cameras will be made in November.