Decision to stop streaming most Powys committee meetings live online made by senior council staff FOI reveals
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
A decision to stop streaming most Powys committee meetings live online was made by council staff and not elected members, the answer to a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
In July it came as a surprise to many that a number of council meetings are now being held without the public and press being allowed access to watch them live.
The move was criticised by opposition councillors and council leader Cllr James Gibson-Watt explained that there was only enough money to cover the Zoom licence to broadcast cabinet and full council meetings live.
He claimed that the decision was taken as part of the budget process earlier this year.
But scrutiny of the budget documents could not find such a proposal put forward as part of the budget process.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service asked who took the decision and when was it taken.
Executive Management Team
Responding to the FOI, the council said that the Executive Management Team (EMT) took the decision on May 26.
The EMT is a small group of senior council staff headed by the council’s chief executive and includes service directors.
Following local elections in May councillors have returned to the council chamber at county hall in Llandrindod Wells for some meetings.
They take place in a hybrid format, which sees some councillors in the chamber and other take part online.
The public are able to watch full council and cabinet proceedings at the chamber in person or live online.
Similarly, the planning committee meetings are open to the public to view in the chamber but are not streamed live online.
The council’s scrutiny meetings on education, social service, environment, economy, pensions, licensing, and democratic services are now only held online without public access.
People with an interest in watching these meetings have to wait until they have finished and are uploaded to the council’s website.
Before the election, all council meetings had been shown live online.
By showing full council and cabinet meetings live online the council believes that they “meet the current requirement” under the Welsh Government Local Government and Elections Act (Wales) 2021 which encouraged more electronic broadcasting of meetings.
Electronic broadcasting of meetings legally came into force in Wales last year.
It cemented emergency legislation that was brought in during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 which allowed meetings to take place remotely.
The new law all covers all Welsh local authorities, community councils, national park authorities, fire and rescue authorities and port health authorities..
From March to July the Welsh Government held a consultation which looks at shaping new guidance for councils on how this law will be managed.
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It seems there is no standard method with some authorities using Zoom, some using Teams and others even use Facebook. The decision to save money seems sensible until WAG come up with a uniform system after they consider the consultation.