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First 'hybrid' Council meeting conducted using webcasting system

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The Council has conducted its first ‘hybrid’ webcast meeting where Cabinet Members and Officers either attended the meeting in person, in the Council Chamber, or remotely through the Zoom platform – in the first step towards future live broadcasting of Council meetings. 

Over the past 14 months following the onset of the pandemic, the Council has been conducting Council and Committee meetings wholly remotely.

The Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, July 20, was the first Committee using the new system which allows Members, Officers and members of the public to take part in Council business in a more accessible and convenient way.  Over the past 14 months the Council has been making available recordings of its Council meetings for members of the public to access, and the new technology allows this to happen more quickly.

The technology will also allow for real-time live broadcasting, which will be used for future meetings ensuring further openness and transparency in the decision making processes of the Council.

The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act places a duty on Councils to put in place arrangements for the broadcast of Council meetings, so members of the public who are unable to attend can see and hear the proceedings.

To improve accessibility and support, public participation improvements have been made to the Council Chamber to support the future live broadcasting of meetings.

Councillor Maureen Webber, Deputy Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member for Council Business, said: “Tuesday provided the first opportunity for the Council’s Business Unit to webcast a ‘hybrid’ meeting of the Cabinet. Now that the public health situation is improving, Coronavirus regulations are being eased and a limited number of people are permitted within the Council Chamber.

“The system is a much-improved and flexible provision which will increase accessibility for those directly involved in meetings, and engagement for members of the public wishing to follow proceedings remotely. The Council’s intention is to move towards live broadcasting its formal meetings, which is made possible for the first time through this new technology, from September.

“This milestone delivers upon a commitment made by the Council back in 2017 to enhance public participation through the broadcasting of meetings – and the ability to participation in formal proceedings virtually will support our ambition to improve diversity in democracy.

“As agreed in the meeting of Full Council in June 2021, we have now started a number of trial meetings to gain experience of the system operations – initially prioritising Cabinet and Democratic Services, as well as the Planning and Development and Overview and Scrutiny Committees.

“The initial feedback we’ve had from Tuesday’s meeting is that the new technology worked well, allowing those Cabinet Members and Officers in the Chamber, as well as those joining in remotely, to fully take part in debates and the consideration of Council Business.”

The new webcasting system has been funded as part of the Council’s 2020/21 Budget. In order to improve equipment, three successful funding bids were secured from Welsh Government through its Digital Democracy funding scheme, announced by the Minister for Housing and Local Government in December 2020.

The Council had been exploring the option of ‘hybrid’ meetings as a result of continuing social distancing laws which limit the number of people able to physically attend the Council Chamber at any one time – as well as a desire to be able to continue to offer the option of being able to attend and participate in meetings remotely. This is a facility which many Councillors, Officers and members of the public who participated in Council meetings found hugely beneficial during the pandemic.

The new webcasting system has a number of further advantages on top of allowing ‘hybrid’ meetings and live broadcasting. Benefits include a positive demonstration of accountability and transparency, encouraging engagement and debate by increasing the public’s access to meetings, and raising the profile of discussions behind the decisions of the Council and its committees. 

To view the Cabinet meeting please access the link here.

Posted on 26/07/2021