WREXHAM Council meetings are to be broadcast online.
The authority’s executive board took the historic decision yesterday to allow the council to trial webcasting its meetings for the first time.
The policy has already been adopted by other authorities, including the neighbouring Cheshire West and Chester Council, and it will allow people to view the meetings from home and to see the debates and decisions being made by council leaders .
Members will also be able to take part in meetings remotely by using the council’s portable conferencing facility on a pilot basis, although reservations about this method were stressed during the meeting yesterday.
The authority’s deputy leader, Cllr Mark Pritchard, welcomed the introduction of webcasting.
He said: “It’s about accountability, transparency, openness and the people who elect us.
“I am delighted with it.
“Let’s use it, embrace it and let the people of Wrexham see us making decisions.
“Let’s face it, many of them cannot get here.”
Along with other local authorities, Wrexham Council has been awarded £40,000 from the Welsh Government to assist with webcasting and remote attendance of meetings.
The decision by the Welsh Government to award money at a time when savings are having to be made was criticised by some members.
Cllr David A. Bithell said: “The timing of this from the Welsh Government is really, really poor when you think we are facing cuts and they are awarding £40,000 to each of the authorities in Wales.
“It makes you wonder do they want to webcast or help save public services?”
Cllr Malcolm King, lead member for policy, finance, performance and governance, said it was hoped webcasting the meetings would enable the public to engage more easily with the council.
However, he said the authority was less keen on the remote attendance plans because the “unworkability is quite considerable”.
He said in some authorities it may make more sense to have remote attendance due to how spread out a county might be, although this is not the case in Wrexham.
When asked by members, Cllr King said there would be technical problems with members attempting to contribute remotely to meetings as it would require a member of staff to be with them.
Cllr Carole O’Toole said she was reassured about the webcasting plans after attending a workshop.
“The whole approach is one of piloting the schemes and then evaluating them and seeing what will work best for us,” she said.
The pilot scheme is initially set to cover meetings, including executive board, planning committee and full council sessions.
Members are to monitor the success of the pilot scheme.