GWYNEDD Council’s cabinet will be asked to approve a £130,000 project to upgrade the authority’s webcasting equipment to facilitate the ‘new normal’.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, traditional meetings in the council chamber and various committee rooms have been replaced by Zoom and other video conferencing means, with members and officers usually contributing from their own homes.
But with life expected to gradually closer resemble what we knew before, council chiefs are preparing for the return of at least partially in-person meetings by the autumn and beyond.
To meet the requirements of the new Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021, Tuesday’s cabinet meeting will see members asked to open the purse strings to the tune of £130,000 by using a share of the £1m already received from the Welsh Government towards digital transformation.
The report notes that the proposed work includes upgrading the video system to ensure a fully digital system, offering better picture quality.
The report goes on to note that hybrid meetings have been generally backed by councillors, and would also encourage:
Contributing to the carbon reduction agenda by reducing travelling
Promoting diversity in democracy by encouraging the flexibility of remote access to virtual meetings and thereby attracting more people who work and young parents to consider standing for election
Using councillors’ time more sensibly by reducing travelling requirements
Reducing travel costs
“Ensuring that the provision is available from more than one location will support the council’s agenda of holding virtual or hybrid meetings for councillors and/or staff at formal or informal meetings,” the report goes on to note.
“To this end, therefore, a request is made to upgrade both chambers in Caernarfon to enable hybrid arrangements from the chambers as well as upgrading the current camera provision to digital.
“In addition, the request includes upgrading the council’s meeting rooms in order to allow remote access for councillors and staff at hybrid meetings with the location being one of the council’s other traditional meeting rooms across the county’s buildings.”
It has already been stated that only the full council meetings are expected to remain wholly in-person after the pandemic, with various Democracy Services committee meetings finding that most support for virtual meetings coming from members living the furthest away from Caernarfon.
Due to the vastness of the county’s boundaries, it can take as much as three hours to travel between the county town and communities in the south of Meirionnydd.
Others, however, have stated that virtual meetings do not fully replicate in-person meetings, and have spoke of their willingness to return to the chamber once permitted to do so.
The report will be debated by the cabinet when it meets on Tuesday, July 27.