A COMMUNITY council was left torn over choosing ‘complete transparency’ or privacy when they debated whether meetings should be recorded for the public.

At the monthly meeting of Hawarden Council, held online, Cllr Richard Taylor proposed they become ‘as transparent as possible’ and record public meetings so residents can view ‘at their convenience’.

He told members that we ‘live in a digital world’ and benefits would include representatives being ‘genuinely accountable’ to the people they serve.

He added written minutes cannot offer ‘the same quality’ of information as there can be mistakes and things taken ‘out of context’.

Cllr Taylor went on to say recorded meetings would also ensure councillors stick to their code of conduct and makes meetings inclusive, adding that there ‘are no disadvantages’ to this as it is a ‘democratic right’.

A similar motion was put forward last year but was rejected due to concerns of needing more information.

Questions were raised as to whether other councils were taking this on board, with confirmations it will be up for discussion elsewhere in the county.

Cllr Sam Swash informed members that many councils were doing this in England as well as a council in South Wales, but just because other councils are not doing it ‘is not an excuse’ for Hawarden not to.

However, Cllr Ant Turton said he was ‘absolutely not’ being filmed in his home but would be in favour of being filmed when council can return to the hut if ‘costings are right’.

He added just because you have ‘loads of money’ in the pot, you ‘don’t have to spend it’.

He told members the ‘money would be better spent elsewhere’ such as ‘where the problems are happening now’ as they should ‘give the community what they want’, including targeting fly-tipping.

He said: “This money needs to be spent in the villages where these problems are happening right now. We’ve got play areas not being up to scratch. We’ve got money in the pot, let’s do them things. Let’s get back in the community and give them what they want because they are the things I’m asked about, not getting me on video.”

Cllr Sam Swash said: “We can’t just say we can sort this out when we get back in the hut, we can’t get back into the hut until virtual meeting software is in place.

“We are going to have to spend this money. I think we’ve got £270,000 in reserves, they are almost at the very limit of what we are allowed as a council.

“The idea we can’t afford £2,000 quite frankly is laughable. These things we’re talking about are very good and we can be spending money on them but you have to bring the motion to council.

“It’s plausible councillors want to protect the privacy of them and their families but there’s a more fundamental point to be made here, I think its quite unfortunate it’s necessary to be made, we aren’t elected here as councillors to act in our own individual best interests or in the best interests of our families.

“We are here to act in the best interests of every single resident of the wards we represent.

“We should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest so when we make a decision on this or anything else we should be doing so with what is in the best interests of our constituents, not us as individuals or our families.”

However, concerns were raised over the potential to ‘hack’ into accounts and short snippets that could make members ‘look foolish’.

Cllr Turton added: “They can make you look rather foolish. Some of us have got businesses, we’ve got lots of friends and family in the area, we don’t want to be ridiculed.

“I signed up for this to try and help,if I start getting ridiculed because someone takes a 30-second snippet of me, I’m not a public speaker, saying something wrong or looking rather foolish that impacts me.

“100 per cent my initial regard is my family before any resident of Mancot. People know that, like you I've got young children, residents of Mancot I support them 100 per cent but I will aways support my family first.

“If someone takes a snippet of me now looking ridiculous, why do I deserve that? They didn’t watch the two hour meeting, they will watch the snippet they want to watch.

“People will only come to you when they’ve got an issue not many people want to know what’s happening in Hawarden until there’s something on their doorstep.”

Cllr Richard Taylor expressed concerns the ‘goalposts’ were being moved and in terms of money, the council spent £700 on mediation that was caused by a ‘lack of transparency’.

He went on to say that members were ‘ignoring the community’ by not giving them the option to watch their representatives.

Some councillors said they supported the idea but for the time being there were ‘more pressing issues’ in the community.

Cllr Clive Carver said it ‘seems crazy to dive in straight away’ and they would ‘look silly’ spending £1,000 ‘rather than wait’. He said to ‘wait until it’s mandatory’.

Questions were also raised about whether residents would want to sit in on meetings or whether it would be a waste.

Cllr Emma Preece said ‘blended meetings are the way forward’ as discussions also took place on whether council should return to face-to-face meetings.

The proposal for recording meetings was rejected by 12 councillors with seven voting in favour of the idea.