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‘Leaving dinosaur age and coming into digital era’: Bury Council set to pilot live streaming scheme

By Tui Benjamin

A digital revolution will hit Bury Council in December, with the authority set to live stream full council meetings for the first time.

The pilot, spearheaded by tech-savvy Councillor Tamoor Tariq, is intended to promote openness and transparency.

Cllr Tariq said that the council needed to modernise and begin communicating with residents in a 21st Century way.

Bury’s youngest councillor also passed a motion to allow tweeting in council meetings back in April.

“There is a real disconnect between the people we represent and the councillors,” he said.

“It’s about leaving the dinosaur age and coming into the digital age.”

There has been no public consultation on live streaming but Cllr Tariq believes Bury residents will benefit by being able to see how council meetings are conducted from the comfort of their own homes.

“I hope there will be a reasonable amount of viewers. The council and councillors have obviously got a job on their hands to ensure we promote this idea,” he said.

“Across the country there are variations, some councils only have one or two people tuning in while others get three or four hundred people.”

The council have utilised a Bury business to ensure the initiative will cost just £1,200 a year despite quotes from other companies averaging at £35,000 annually.

“If you compare that throughout the country we’re substantially better-off in terms of value for money,” said Cllr Tariq.

Oldham council were the first local authority in Greater Manchester to implement live streaming in February this year.

They have at least 200 viewers each time through their website alone, at a cost to the council of £800 per session.

Oldham council said Twitter interaction increases each broadcast and there has been an increase in public questions submitted.  

Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, said the move was important for increasing the public’s connection with local democracy, with the first live streamed meeting drawing in 400 viewers.

“When was the last time this many residents turned up to a full council meeting? Certainly not in my lifetime,” he said.

Cllr McMahon said Oldham’s live streaming success has proved that many people will observe the debate if it is made more accessible to them.

“Being able to submit a question online and then sit back and see it answered from your sofa has to be a positive thing for transparency and local democracy,” he said.

“The real litmus test will be to see if greater engagement translates into action.”

“If this really does start to encourage residents to get more involved and contribute to what’s happening in their communities then it would be a compelling model for others to follow.”

The Bury Council initiative may be extended to cover overview and scrutiny panel meetings if judged a success after the pilot. 

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