Yesterday the Bury Times carried the news that Bury Council is to begin streaming live council meetings, starting with next Wednesday’s meeting of the full council. This follows a decision recently to allow tweeting in Bury’s council chamber, overturning a ban by the previous council when it was under Tory control.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I campaigned for Salford Council to either move their council meetings to more family-friendly timeslots (such as Bury Council’s very agreeable 7pm start time) or to allow audio or video recordings. Various legal arguments were emailed back to me as to why it would be “illegal” for Salford Council to allow this, yet other councils around the country have been doing this for quite some time. I still have those ridiculous emails from Salford’s city solicitor if anyone would like to view them. The decision was backed up by Salford’s current head of democratic services.
More recently Salford Conservative councillors attempted to overturn the Salford Council ‘twitter ban’ arguing that by tweeting during the meetings, constituents were able to follow what their elected members were up to – you know, a sort of “open democracy”. The Labour majority were having none of it and the motion was defeated.
Why are Salford Labour so afraid to let the public see and hear what goes on in their council chamber when Bury Labour think it is essential “to move with the times” (the words of Bury Labour leader of the council Mike Connolly)?
Yes, there is a public gallery in Salford (I defy you to sit comfortably in the public gallery through a council meeting that lasts from 9am in the morning until well into the afternoon), but it is not generally convenient for people to attend on council-day itself, especially when the start time is 9am, when most people would be starting work.
Bury Council have announced that their live recordings will be made available for a few days afterwards – so if you are unable to watch live on the day, Bury residents can catch up at their leisure afterwards.
It’s not often I commend a Labour council, but I wholeheartedly agree with the leader of Bury Council, Labour’s Mike Connolly when he said:
“We’re living in the digital age, and many people now expect to follow the workings of the council via their PC, smart phone or laptop rather than coming along to meetings in person. Councillors recently voted to allow Tweeting in meetings, and then we voted to try live video streaming, so we’re certainly moving with the times. I hope many people in Bury will tune in, either on the night or afterwards, and see local democracy in action.”
Quite right Councillor Connolly, Salford Council should follow suit forthwith.