Meetings at Lichfield District Council are unlikely to continue to be streamed online from next month, a report has revealed.

A Lichfield District Council meeting streamed online

Sessions have been shown live on YouTube for the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But national legislation to allow virtual meetings is due to expire next month – despite the Government’s roadmap indicating restrictions will not be fully lifted until 21st June.

The leader of Lichfield District Council has previously praised the impact of online meetings, saying they could encourage a more diverse group of people to put themselves up for election in future.

But a report from Cllr Angela Lax, cabinet member for regulatory, housing and health, said that the streaming of meetings online was unlikely to continue for physical sessions.

Angela Lax

“The return to physical meetings will limit the council’s ability to record and broadcast proceedings.

“Hybrid meetings, which would allow recording of the activity and comments made during the proceedings of physical meeting in the council chamber or committee room, would require significant capital investment in audio visual equipment and ongoing staffing resources to set up and maintain which the Council does not have within the current budget.

“Outline costings to provide audio visual equipment to facilitate broadcast in council meetings are £90,000 in capital and ongoing revenue costs in maintaining and using the equipment during each meeting.

“Other less costly options are being explored, but are unlikely to be realisable before meetings must begin again.”

Cllr Angela Lax, Lichfield District Council

Cllr Lax’s report said discussions had taken place about how to deal with meetings planned between May and the lifting of restrictions on 21st June.

Some sessions have been rescheduled, while the AGM next month will go ahead in Burntwood instead.

A voluntary testing programme is also likely to be used to allow councillors to attend meetings in person again.

“Our next AGM is planned for 18th May and due to restrictions of the legislation that require them to be completed by the end of May, cannot be delayed further.

“Given the challenges and risks of physically fitting all members into the Council Chamber at Frog Lane, the AGM will instead be held in the sports hall at Burntwood Leisure Centre.

“This venue will allow for sufficient social distancing and some public viewing space as this meeting will not be able to be broadcast as meetings during the past year have been.

“It is also recommended that all members and officers likely to attend any formal council meeting undertake a lateral flow test in the 48 hours preceding the meetings to prevent anyone not exhibiting symptoms accidentally spreading the virus.”

Cllr Angela Lax, Lichfield District Council

The report will be discussed at a meeting of Lichfield District Council tomorrow (20th April).

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6 Comments

  1. This is all very useful for the old guard in their attempts to stymie Cllr Pullen’s stated aim to open up the council and engage more positively with local people.

    I would argue that a return to physical meetings is no big surprise, it was bound to happen sooner rather than later. So why hasn’t LDC been more proactive in ensuring some facilities are in place to stream the physical meetings?

    Streaming the virtual meetings has been a huge success for all residents of LDC as we’ve been able to put our elected reps under far more scrutiny than ever before. With Lichfield Live providing its regular, excellent coverage we’ve arguably never had it so good in terms of understanding what the council does and how its elected reps operate.

    But a return to the old ways means we do not get the scrutiny we are entitled to, we do not get to feel actively involved in LDC’s operations and we do not get to feel engaged in the decisions that have a direct impact on us all.

    Maybe that is exactly what old guard and even some of the newer generation of councillors want though? They simply do not appreciate this level of scrutiny. They can slip back into the silent shadows once the physical meetings return and streaming comes to an end. No more engagement. No more openness.

  2. I am no IT expert, but I understand every councillor has an official LDC laptop, which normally comes with a camera and broadband access I will stand corrected if this is not so, but assuming I am correct, why can they not use the laptop at any meetings that are due to be held at a venue and not from their homes Etc, which is how we mere mortals watch their meetings with great interest.
    Come on Councillor Pullen, this is all part of your transparency, make these meeting work so we can view

  3. I’m astonished that proving the relevant technology would cost any where near £90k.

    I say this as an IT expert with more than 30years experience providing IT solutions to leading public and private sector organisations.

    That figure suits their agenda.

    As previously commented by others transparency is vital.

  4. This is yet ANOTHER attempt at LDC to conduct their business behind closed doors – away from the annoying public. As someone has already said -the capital outlay to live stream meeting is virtually nothing. How much is a webcam? £40? Actually I have a spare one that can be used? Presumably the broadband costs are already being incurred. So I’d love to know, what additional costs are involved??

  5. I would urge people to make a freedom of information request, to see how this £90k figure was cooked up. Absolute madness.

    I expected more from Pullen to be honest.

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