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Wrexham Council could soon webcast all meetings in bid to “strengthen engagement and transparency”

More council meetings in Wrexham could soon be broadcast online in a bid to “strengthen public engagement and display openness and transparency.”

Earlier this month Wrexham.com reported that members of the democratic services committee had debated how the local authority could increase its engagement and “get out of the dark ages”.

Currently the council’s webcasting service is provided via a company called Public-i, which offers streaming and archiving services to a number of local authorities across the country.

As part of the package Wrexham Council webcast all executive board, full council and planning meetings from the main council chamber. In recent years several 10 hours of ‘public interest’ scrutiny committees have also been streamed online.

However in a bid to further engage the public and modernise, it has been suggested that the council look to webcast more meetings by installing the required equipment.

Currently the webcasting equipment is only available in the main council chamber where planning, full council, executive board and public interest scrutiny committee meetings.

Audit, scrutiny and licensing committees are held in a meeting room on the ground floor; with lack of media facilities and equipment cited as reasons why more meetings aren’t broadcast from the room.

On Wednesday all councillors will have the chance to vote on whether equipment should be leased for meeting room one to webcast scrutiny committees, where possible and subject to available budget.

The indicative costs of leasing such a system from Public-i are detailed in the report as follows:

– Year One: £10,038 (this would include the initial set-up costs, equipment, maintenance and support for two cameras, 12 microphone units plus hardware required).
– Year Two: £5355.50
– Year Three: £5355.50

In terms of how the additional equipment and webcast hours could be funded, the report explains: “Funding from the council’s cash limited budget has been limited to the provision of webcasting facilities for the current level of service for the period of the contract which is for three years commencing 5 January 2016.

“Any increase in the current level of service/cost will require budget to be identified and/or/compensating savings to be made.”

A breakdown of viewer figures are provided, with meetings ranging from several hundred viewers to as low as 38.

As Wrexham.com has reported previously, meetings with more topical agenda items tend to gain the most viewers. For example a planning meeting held in March 2018 saw 623 people tune in at some point to watch controversial comments from councillors over a proposed secure mental health unit.

A full council in May which saw a row break out between the leader of Wrexham Council, Cllr Mark Pritchard and Plaid Cymru Group leader, Cllr Marc Jones, saw 526 people watch the webcast.

Viewing figures were referenced in the recent democratic services committee, with questions on whether further webcasting would be value for money due to the often low volume of people who watch.

At the time chairman of the committee, Cllr Malcolm King said there was more the council could to to promote the work undertaken by councillors and to “promote democracy”.

One suggestion was that the council move out of the Guildhall and into public venues such as community centres or Tŷ Pawb to make meetings more accessible to the public.

The debate will take place at Full Council on Wednesday 26th September at 4pm. The meeting will be webcast live on the Wrexham Council website for anyone who wants to tune into the debate!

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