Recording of meetings pushed back again

Meetings at East Devon District Council (EDDC) will not be recorded for at least another two years despite calls for more transparency.

It was recommended to take another report on cost and other issues before any policy will be drafted, more than a year after a letter was sent to councils urging them to allow recordings to take place.

Following a request by Councillor Roger Giles at a full council meeting earlier this year, a report was commissioned by EDDC’s overview and scrutiny committee.

It said there was no money in this year’s budget for the idea, and it expected the budget for 2013/14 to show a shortfall, so advised it may be better to ‘consider undertaking this facility in the future’.

The results showed the cost of a system to broadcast meetings on its website and record them would be around �15,000, having come down in price considerably over the past few years.

But communications portfolio-holder Ian Thomas claimed it would be around three times that.

The councillor said although in theory he supported the idea of webcasting, he doubted many people would really be interested in watching meetings.

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Councillor Derek Button disagreed strongly, and spoke at length on the importance of this issue for democracy and transparency at last week’s meeting.

Councillor Claire Wright suggested it was difficult to accept the justification of cost as a barrier given the recent agreement of a �40,000 communication manager post.

She said: “Webcasting would be of real value to residents and is a cost I think would be supported by many people.”

The Ottery Rural representative highlighted a letter from government minister Bob Neill MP, who wrote to councils in February 2011 making a direct plea urging them to allow the recording of meetings, something EDDC still does not allow.

The committee agreed it would ‘note the positive benefits of webcasting and indicative cost’, but would wait to receive a future report ahead of reviewing a draft policy to recommend to council.