Cameras to stream live footage from City Chambers

CITY chiefs are to introduce cameras to stream live footage from debates in an attempt to spark interest in local government.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 21st May 2012, 1:00 pm

A one-year pilot project will involve airing proceedings to viewers online to show the decision-making process as it happens.

The scheme will cost around £30,000 and will initially focus on monthly full council meetings with the option to extend it to include committees such as the police and licensing boards.

As the Evening News told last month, the premise might not prove as successful as reality programmes such as The Only Way is Essex (Towie) but the proposals had tongues wagging at the City Chambers.

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Fixed and mobile cameras will be hired before screenings begin after the summer recess in August.

Holyrood TV at the Scottish Parliament has proved relatively popular with around 7000 viewers tuning in for key debates.

The cameras will be able to capture disputes between elected members and votes within the City Chambers.

Footage will also be stored, allowing users to revisit key debates and serving as a permanent record of them.

Last month the Evening News told how councillors had already dubbed the council TV project The Only Way is Edinburgh and likened several key figures to the less-than-bright 20-somethings from the show.

Steve Cardownie – who famously attempted to claim expenses for a pair of Armani trousers he ripped on a nail on a desk – was doubled with fashion-conscious Mark Wright.

Alastair Maclean, director of the corporate governance department, said the introduction of cameras would help the public to better understand how decisions were made. He said: “As well as providing the people of Edinburgh with greater access to how decisions are made for the city, this will also provide a more complete record of council meetings.

“We will need to assess how the pilot goes and see both if we want to continue it for full council meetings and if it should be extended to other committees.”

Council chiefs said having the equipment on hand also provided other opportunities for filming, including gauging public opinion on the streets.

City leader Councillor Andrew Burns said: “I welcome the fact that we are going to trial this method which should improve the openness and transparency of how the council carries out its business.

“Webcasting is provided by many other authorities and is seen as an important service to the public.

“It’s really important that our communities have a greater chance to participate in local democracy, and being able to observe council meetings through webcasting is an important step in that direction.”

Steve Burgess, leader of the Edinburgh Greens, which included the introduction of Council TV in its manifesto, said the move was important in showing voters how elected members served their constituencies.

He said: “Webcasting council meetings is not going to remould democracy overnight but it is a step in the right direction.

“As part of a package which makes the council more open and transparent, it can help to rebuild confidence in the city council, something all councillors are agreed upon.

“That is why the Greens included it in our manifesto before the election. I will be looking carefully at the pilot and hoping it is as much of a success as it is in other councils in England.”

A decision on whether to fully role out the pilot across the board will be taken next year.