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Southend councillors to block broadcast of meetings?
9:00am Friday 23rd November 2012 in Local News
OUTRAGED councillors have vowed to scupper plans to spend £82,000 broadcasting their meetings across the internet.
Tory chiefs at Southend Council rubber-stamped proposals to install cameras in the Civic Centre’s main chamber, allowing residents to watch proceedings from the comfort of their own homes, earlier this month. But the decision went against the recommendations of an all-party scrutiny committee, which ruled the service was too costly in the current cash-strapped climate.
Snubbed councillors have now called for the opposition parties to come together to block the plans.
Martin Terry, spokesman for the council’s Independent group and leader of the opposition, said: “This is money we can ill afford to spend at this time.
“It might only be a few thousand pounds to some people, but to others it is money which could be better used elsewhere.
“Statistics have shown that broadcasting meetings is not popular and no one watches them.”
After May’s elections left the Tories one seat short of an overall majority in the council chamber, they agreed to run most major decisions through the three all-party scrutiny committees before reaching a final verdict.
The decision to press ahead with installing the cameras is the first time the Conservatives have ignored the committees’ recommendations.
If the Independents, Liberal Democrats and Labour unite to vote down the proposals at next month’s full council meeting , the issue could be sent back to the scrutiny committee for further debate.
Castle Point Council is currently the only authority in south Essex which broadcasts its meetings, which it started in February 2008.
Southend Council officers said the impending need to update the microphone system in the main chamber presented the ideal opportunity to introduce broadcasting.
The cameras would be programmed to focus on whoever switched on their microphone to speak, allowing meetings to be broadcast with minimal effort and cost.
Bosses estimate installing the system would cost £62,000, with maintenance and upgrades costing an extra £20,000 annually.