A BID to webcast all Pembrokeshire County Council meetings was voted down by nine votes last Thursday (May 1).
Cllrs Paul Miller, Mike Stoddart, Roderick Bowen, Tony Wilcox and Jacob Williams called for all committee meetings to be webcast in the same way full council is. The motion was defeated by 31 votes to 22.
Full council meetings have been webcast since December 12 2013. A government grant paid for the existing system and initial running costs totalling more than £27,000.
But according to a report by the head of legal and committee services Huw Miller, the initial cost of rolling out webcasting in all committee rooms would be £11,340, with annual costs of £25,778.
His report stated: “There is no budgetary provision for these costs and the 2014/15 budget approved at the last council meeting requires the delivery of significant cost reductions.”
Council leader Cllr Jamie Adams said: “I accept that there’s an interest as to what happens in the chamber but I’m very clear that we tread on dangerous ground where our approved budget for this year stands to be changed on this matter and will affect the services in this county.”
Cllr David Bryan suggested holding committee meetings at the council chambers to minimise costs, while Jacob Williams said it was unfair of Cllr Adams to suggest other services would suffer as a result.
“This myth that the council budget is down to the last £25,000 is ridiculous,” said Cllr Stoddart. “The budget is not as precise an instrument as that.”
He added: “For Cllr Adams to talk about cuts to services is just fantasy island as far as I’m concerned.”
Cllr Tessa Hodgson said webcasting had been a “force for good”. She added: “People are engaged in democracy like never before since webcasting. We cannot put a price on democracy.” Many members agreed.
But Cllr Wynne Evans expressed concerns for members of the public speaking at planning committee meetings. “Webcasting could be very scary for them,” he said. “It could put people off coming.”
Cllr Ken Rowlands said people were more concerned about what councillors were doing in the community than in county hall, while Cllr Keith Lewis called on members to wait for a “systematic review” after 12 months of webcasting.
"What we are talking about here is the opportunity for everyone in Pembrokeshire to see what we are doing on their behalf," Cllr Miller said.
Members voted in favour of extending the current contract to run for 12 months.