More County Hall meetings could be webcast

Full Council meetings and other items on committees are broadcast online
Full Council meetings and other items on committees are broadcast online

Business at West Sussex County Council could soon become more open with suggestions that more meetings should be webcast.

The council is in the final year of a five-year contract with specialists Public-i and is discussing the possibility of adding extra hours.

At a governance committee meeting on Monday, members were told that only 45 of the contracted 60 hours had been used each year and were asked for their thoughts on adding more meetings to the webcasting list.

At the moment, only a few meetings are webcast, but members agreed that others, including planning and select committees – where proposed decisions are scrutinised – should join them.

Liberal Democrat James Walsh said: “I think there should be a presumption that we should be as open and transparent in our public facing meetings as possible.

“Because most of them take place during the working day, it’s clearly difficult for a lot of people to get here.

“And having them broadcast either live or archived is a very sensible provision.”

Members also discussed protocols for the filming of their meetings.

Under the Openness of Local Government Regulations 2014, the press and public are allowed to film, audio-record, take photos, blog and tweet meetings of councils and other government bodies.

The committee was presented with an eight-point ‘guidance’ list detailing the process.

Among the points were requirements not to use any recordings to ‘deliberately ridicule or be defamatory of’ anyone or to cause any risk of them being harassed.

While there was some doubt about what constituted ridicule, leader Louise Goldsmith said the council had a ‘duty of care’ when it came to protecting members from harassment.

Members were told: “This is a note giving broadcasters guidance on how to behave.

“It’s not really meant to be a list of rules that the county council will seek to enforce.

“It’s for the broadcaster to interpret whether or not they’re falling into line with the guidance they’re being provided with.”