Some random thoughts ahead of the CBC Governance and Audit Committee meeting [pdf] taking place tonight at the Town Hall.
Let’s overlook yet another political witch hunt. It is to the shame of the Coalition partners that they are wasting precious time in an attempt to frame a Tory Borough Cllr, who is likely to stand for ECC election in two months time.
But speaking of wasting time at meetings: what about the:
Review of Meetings and Ways of Working Progress update?
You may remember how CBC had some Saturday morning drop in sessions at the Town Hall. Plus a few roadshows in supermarket car parks.
We understand that they weren’t as seedy as this might suggest.
At the core of this consultation is how to make all CBC public meetings more accessible to the public.
We’d suggest not trying to score political points with witch hunts against others whose politics you don’t share…
The Committee report makes many recommendations. The Turkeys voting for Christmas suggest:
“Governance and Audit Committee move from paper to electronic agendas.”
The Scrutiny Panel and the Revolving Investment Fund Committee have been ‘invited’ to consider a similar move.
It’s a sad sight at the Town Hall when you see 200+ page documents placed out for the public with no takers. We shed a tear for a tree or two each time we see these starting to pile up.
Do it digital, innit.
Which is more or less what the Governance and Audit Committee is proposing, using itself as the online guinea pig.
The report claims:
“Some members may not be able to take the step to digital agendas.”
Is this a physical or tech barrier?
The Committee has looked at supplying all Cllr’s with tablets to make the digital switch. A ridiculous figure of £20,400 is quoted – no doubt to stir up some shit in the toxic Gazette comments below the line.
But wait! What’s this?
“Given the number of Councillors who already have access to compatible devices the number of requests for devices is likely to be low.”
Agenda summaries are also referenced. This would be a half decent move. It has already taken us an entire evening just to read the report recommendations.
The digital issue is also explored with streaming CBC meets. We’re talking video / and or audio here.
ALL meetings are currently recorded, then made available for streaming a few days later.
But what of the live audience?
Is there one?
The Chronic experimented with our own DIY live audio feeds of both Full Council and Cabinet. We’re not breaking any Sunny Colch State secrets when we say that we were chuffed if the audience numbers hit double figures.
The report then conjures up yet more fantasy figures for the cost of this service.
Two main platforms are considered for audio streaming: Public-i and Audiominutes.
A BONKERS figure of £35,000 for a three year Public-i contract is referenced in another bid to stop the debate. Audiominutes comes in at £11,700 for a three year period.
Meanwhile The Chronic’s multi-media budget for live streaming meetings is bugger all.
@mixlr is your friend, Comrades.
The Committee reports mentions mixlr, but doesn’t state why this platform has been ruled out.
Other issues considered include:
Possibility of re-introducing Members Tea’s.
“It was previously the practice to provide members with a light tea in advance of Council and Committee meetings. Members valued this as an opportunity to meet and discuss matters in an informal cross party environment.
Some members have indicated that they would welcome its reintroduction as it is felt that it helped make meetings more business-like, shorter and less confrontational.”
And off the record.
For some strange reason a quote has been sourced from Colchester Borough Homes for a refurbishment of the Members’ area.
It clocks in at another RIDICULOUS £17,000.
In fact the whole report is more or less a KEEP OUT sign, instead of trying to open up local democracy.
Shut down the debate, before it even gets going.
Have Your Say is also mentioned.
You can of course… Have Your Say at the Governance and Audit Committee on Tuesday evening.
The option of asking a supplementary question has been suggested. This is decent. Far too often Cllr’s are let off the hook by using their ‘answer’ time to attack opposition parties.
Residents rarely get an answer to their question.
Live tweeting of meets has been ruled out by the CBC Comms Manager:
“It’s considered that there is not sufficient capacity in the Communications or Democratic Teams to accommodate the suggestions regarding tweeting during meetings or responsibility for a dedicated ‘meetings’ Twitter account.”
Concerns are also raised about the objectivity of a CBC feed.
@LBLDemocracy does a decent job.
There are many more recommendations in the report. It shows that CBC is at least thinking about why there is bugger all interest in participating in public meetings.
But the report appears to put up more obstacles, rather than offer any answers with conviction.