BY Christmas, the option of watching all Powys County Council meetings live online, could be restored.
At a meeting of the council’s Democratic Services committee on Monday, September 5, a discussion on restoring live online meetings for all committees took place.
In May, senior council staff took the decision to stop streaming most Powys committee meetings live online.
The council’s scrutiny meetings on education, social service, environment, economy, pensions, licensing, and democratic services are now only held online without public access.
Committee vice-chairman, Cllr Graham Breeze said:
“Denying the people of Powys access to meetings reflects very badly on this authority and doesn’t present an image of an open and transparent organisation.
“I would like to propose the recommendation goes to full council for an immediate return to live broadcasts of all meetings which were previously accessible.”
Head of legal services Clive Pinney explained that live streaming during the Covid-19 pandemic had not incurred any “cost to Powys at all” – but it had been at the expense of a Welsh/English translation facility.
Mr Pinney said:
“It’s the reintroduction of Welsh translation and the introduction of a hybrid system means we can no longer use Teams as a mechanism to do this.
“There is a cost for live webcasting that is not in the budget that was agreed in March.
“What we are doing is recording and publishing it on the website within 24 hours.”
Councillors were told by head of democratic services and scrutiny manager Wyn Richards that discussions were taking place with both Microsoft Teams and Zoom on the best way forward.
After being prompted by Mr Pinney, Mr Richards also explained that the cost implications “worst case scenario” is “between £80,000 to £90,000 a year.”
Mr Richards said: “The technology is something we are fighting with because there is no perfect solution out there.”
Committee chairman, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan said that a “way forward to focus minds” would be to set a time limit for the issue to be resolved.
He suggested a three-month period.
Mr Pinney said that time would allow the council to find out and test whether a new “webinar” system from Zoom could be the solution.
Cllr Breeze pointed out that the next full council meeting is in October and wanted the deadline to be three months from the Democratic Services committee meeting or “60 days” from the full council meeting.
Cllr Breeze said: “I would be happy to amend the proposal to that.”
The committee approved the recommendation which will go on to be debated at a full council meeting on October 6.
Following local elections in May, councillors have returned to the council chamber at county hall in Llandrindod Wells for some meetings.
They take place in a hybrid format, which sees some councillors in the chamber and others take part online.
The public are able to watch full council and cabinet proceedings at the chamber in person or live online.
Similarly, the planning committee meetings are open to the public to view in the chamber but are not streamed live online.