Wrexham Council have recordings of meetings that are being referenced to answer questions on policy decisions, however no access is being granted to view them.
Minutes of meetings have been ‘slimmed’ and ‘limited’ since webcasting was brought in, with a view from some councillors that webcasting would provide a more in depth reference point to spool through, however the webcast information is removed from view after six months.
The webcasting query came about over the recent examination of who decided, and when, to make the Wrexham Council policy for Kingdom enforcement ‘zero tolerance’.
Lead Member Cllr David A Bithell has said that policy was clearly stated in a public council meeting in December 2015 (our report of that meeting is here) and was mentioned in the debate on that day.
Following the recent Scrutiny meeting debate on Kingdom enforcement Wrexham.com requested to review the video/audio ‘minutes’ of the 2015 meeting as Scrutiny members struggled to locate a mention of ‘zero tolerance (although there is one here in a supporting document) .
Our request to view the footage was rejected.
A spokesperson for Wrexham Council said: “Archived webcasts are available to view via the Council’s website for a period of six months, after the broadcast meeting – there is no facility to view webcasts after this six month period.”
In a recent meeting debating the council’s webcasts the footage was referenced as complementing ‘reduced minuting’. When the system was first brought in it was noted that webcasts “… will also provide an extra record of debates which the Council minutes cannot and are not intended to provide.”
Wrexham Council have clarified to us: “Webcasting was introduced to allow the public to view meetings as they happen without having to attend in person, and enables those unable to attend or watch a live broadcast to view retrospectively during the period immediately following the meeting.”
“However, the webcast does not replace the formal statutory minutes of any meeting.”
Wrexham Council refer us back to a full council meeting in 2014 where the decisions over webcasting protocol was made, which has references to the webcast and minutes under a note of what was discussed:
“Concerns that the webcast recording would replace the written minutes of meetings and that in future the minutes would not fully reflect the debate. It was confirmed that the webcast recording would not replace the formal legal written record of decisions taken at meetings but webcast recording would enable the Council to have slimmer minutes.”
In the report behind that discussion and decision, it notes: “Webcast meetings will be recorded both audio and visually and it is intended that the hard copy minutes produced following a webcast meeting will be more limited and focus on the recording of decisions and procedural matters rather than being a full summary of proceedings.”
Decisions on further webcasting of meetings and possibilities of extending access to archives is likely to come back to the Democratic Services Committee in July, and to the Executive Board in September.