Tories outraged by webcasting ‘embarrassment‘ claim

Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton ENGSUS00120130418113852
Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton ENGSUS00120130418113852

CONSERVATIVES were outraged when an opposition councillor claimed they would not agree to webcasting meetings because they were ‘embarrassed’ by their behaviour.

Liberal Democrat leader Francis Oppler wanted Arun District Council to record full council meetings to enhance local democracy.

Tories refused to back his plea on financial grounds – but were astonished when Mr Oppler told them they should be ‘ashamed’.

He said: “The reason is not finance, it is about your collective embarrassments for what a shambles that these debates turn into.

“Members of the public will also see just how many councillors do not even bother speaking at these meetings, which is a shambles.”

The comments provoked an angry response, with councillor Philippa Bower arguing Mr Oppler should be ashamed for not attending her committee meetings.

Councillor Robert Wheal interrupted Mr Oppler’s speech, saying he ‘would not be lectured’.

Arun leader Gill Brown had previously refused to back the motion, stating the council could not justify the £3 per minute cost.

She quoted total costs of £540 for a three-hour meeting, plus staff costs of £150 to upload the broadcast.

A previous webcasting pilot attracted just 86 hits – and with the council seeking savings of £4million, Mrs Brown said the proposal ‘did not make financial sense’.

Lib Dem deputy leader Dr James Walsh argued numerous councils, including West Sussex County Council, streamed all their meetings.

He dismissed claims it was a ‘publicity stunt’, arguing it would bring democracy into the 21st century.

The motion was lost, with just four votes in favour.

Adur and Worthing councils, as well as Chichester District Council, recently agreed to audio broadcast all meetings.

An Arun District Council spokesman said this was not currently under consideration. The spokesman also clarified a figure quoted by Mr Oppler regarding costs.

She said: “The council would like to clarify that the £67,000 expenditure was for all the audio visual work and installations that took place during the civic suite refurbishment.

“We can also confirm that consideration will be given to webcasting high profile meetings in the future.

“As yet, we have not discussed audio-recording meetings, but this may be something that is considered as part of our future plan.”