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Harrogate councillors reject live broadcasts of meetings

Harrogate councillors reject live broadcasts of meetings

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Carl Gavaghan at 2:12pm 27th January 2020. (Updated at 7:31am 28th January 2020)

Harrogate councillors have said that it would be too expensive for the authority to stream its meetings online.

  • Councillors met to discuss plans to stream meetings online.  
  • The committee talked over the idea but decided not to recommend the proposal to the full council on cost grounds. 
  • It was hoped broadcasting meetings would make the council more accessible and transparent to the public.

The borough council’s General Purposes Committee met on Thursday to look into the pros and cons of the idea, which was first proposed when a motion was presented at December’s Full Council meeting by Coun Chris Aldred (Lib Dem) calling on councillors to look to follow other authorities’ lead and broadcast its meetings on the internet.

The committee talked over the idea but has decided not to recommend the proposal to the full council.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service Coun Aldred said he was disappointed by the decision.

Councillor Chris Aldred
Councillor Chris Aldred

He said:

“We already have cameras set up in the council chamber to provide an internal feed so I don’t see why it would be such a big deal to start streaming meetings online for the public to watch?

“I just don’t think the council wants to do it. In this day and age, all councils should be doing this.

“I think we will soon be in the minority of councils that do not stream their meetings online.”

A report prepared for the General Purposes Committee gives the benefits and the drawbacks of streaming meetings.

The benefits include that it “makes the council more accessible and transparent to the public” and that the public is able to watch meetings “at a time and location which is convenient for them”.

It is also felt that the recording would give a “more complete record” of meetings and would help people gain a greater understanding of the council’s work.

Harrogate Borough Council

On the other side of the argument, the report warns that some councils that have brought in webcasting have experienced drops in the numbers of public attending meetings in person.

Other worries include the cost in money and officers’ time and reports from other authorities that journalists are the main viewers of the webcasts and this would reduce attendance at meetings and lead to fewer opportunities for “conversations” with councillors.

Coun Richard Cooper (Con), leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said: 

“It is very simply a cost issue. I cannot justify spending tens of thousands of pounds on streaming meetings that will be watched by two or three people at home.

“How could we tell people that we are not building the affordable homes they need because we decided instead to spend the money putting our meetings online.

“We have looked at other authorities and seen the very low numbers of people who view the meetings and I could not simply tell people that we were having to make cuts or closing leisure centers because we spent tens of thousands of pounds providing this for two or three people.”