Agenda item

Webcasting/Public Participation


Members received an update report in relation to introducing webcasting of Council meetings and enhancing public participation to the democratic process which the Democratic Services Committee were tasked to complete by Council. It noted that the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic had an impact on the progress of the work and would slightly alter the proposals. The report highlighted the work that had already been carried out on the proposals, the Councils current position in relation to webcasting and public participation and the plans moving forward; it was mentioned that the pandemic had accelerated and taken over a lot of the work that was previously planned.

Officers highlighted that the webcasting element had been paused as meetings had stopped taking place in the Civic Centres and were being held virtually on the software package Microsoft Teams; currently public meetings were being recorded using the facilities on Teams and the footage was then uploaded online for the public to view. The report detailed that the current process was working successfully and captured the range of viewing figures of the public meetings including Council and Cabinet Scrutiny Committee; Officers were pleased with the amount of views that the meetings were receiving, which were much higher than what could be achieved when in the designated meeting rooms in the Civic Centres, therefore improving public participation.

The Committee was informed that staff were routinely publicising what meetings were being held weekly on the Councils social media platforms and webpages to try and obtain even more engagement from the public. It was confirmed that there had been occasions where members of the public and the press had been in attendance during the virtual meetings. It was added that Officers had already started to prepare next steps in readiness for the next phase of the Local Government Wales Bill which was anticipated to detail expectations of webcasting and public participation for all Councils across Wales.

It was stated that the Council had made a lot of progress in terms of the technology aspects during the pandemic; Officers were pleased with the work that Members had completed with Democratic Services and the IT team in ensuring that all Elected Members had what was required to be able to take part in the meetings being held remotely. It had been noticed that there was an increase in Members attendance at meetings; the remote working model offered some benefits, especially to those who had other responsibilities.

One of the negatives noted was that the bilingual meetings of Council had been lost as the Microsoft product doesn’t enable a bilingual meeting support arrangement; Officers had been making enquiries with Microsoft, but currently there was no time scale for it to be delivered. It was highlighted that the Senedd had been able to provide bilingual meetings and there were currently discussions taking place with the Senedd support workers in relation to how they had achieved this; however, it was noted that there would be a lot of work involved and some considerable cost implications if the Council were to adopt the model. Officers added that they hoped to see improvements on this issue for the whole of Wales over the next coming months.

In terms of public participation, it was noted that some work had been completed in relation to promoting the fact that meetings were being held and explaining how the public could participate in the live meetings and how they could access the recordings after the meeting had been held; this hadn’t cost the Council any money. In the report Officers were proposing that progress be made over the next few months on some of the other elements that were previously discussed, in particular:

1. Exploring the petition functionality within the Mod Gov software; this could be trialled internally to understand how it works and how the Council can move that forward if required to do so as part of the result of the new legal duties that would be contained within the Local Government Wales Bill.

2. Improving the navigation around the public facing webpages; some work had already been completed in the background around this and it would be continued in order to simplify how people find out about the democratic process, ensuring the Council was promoting and encouraging people to use it.

Members noted that the Council had spent a lot less money holding meetings remotely via Microsoft Teams and recording them, than what would’ve been spent implementing the original plans which needed to be reflected on going forward. It was also added that the Council supporting hybrid meetings (meetings where some people may meet face to face and others may join remotely) also needed to be added to the new way forward. 

Concerns were expressed in relation to the reliability of the technology which would need to be highlighted to Welsh Government if the plans moving forward were to continue with remote meetings as the Council may need financial support to resolve certain technological issues. Officers stated that the cost implications of the new duties was previously raised with Welsh Government and the Council was continuing to work with the WLGA regarding the costs; it was hoped that there would be additional financial settlement around this particular area of work. It was added that the focus to date had been around the technology costs, however some focus needed to be given to the impact that the new duties was having on staff time; Officers were working with WLGA to provide evidence around staff implications.

It was mentioned that for the Swansea Bay City Region Joint Scrutiny Committee, Carmarthenshire Council had been utilising a form of telephone arrangement for those who wished to listen to the meeting in Welsh, as a temporary measure; Members asked if the Council could look into this also as a temporary measure. Officers highlighted that translation arrangements could be made for Welsh speaking Members who wished to have meetings relayed in Welsh, which would be servicing the individual needs of Members, however one of the purposes of the Welsh Language Act was to make the Welsh language visible. It was suggested that if this particular issue could not be solved quickly, Welsh speaking Members could choose to speak in Welsh during meetings as long as they would be prepared to explain what they said in English; this could be included in a protocol going forward. Officers also agreed to find out the arrangements that Carmarthenshire Council had in place for bilingual meetings.

One of the benefits raised in regards to remote meetings was that Members had been able to get used to the idea of meetings being recorded and the fact that they could be reviewed back; this allowed Members to learn some of the etiquette that comes with this. Members asked if any consideration had been given to using Microsoft Teams Live to broadcast meetings as and when they take place. It was noted that other Councils had done this and it could further engage the public; Members and the public weren’t always aware of the timeframe in which the recordings would be uploaded online, which could result in disengagement. Officers mentioned that the target staff worked towards was to upload the recordings on the same day that the meeting had taken place; there had previously been technical issues with the recording being uploaded to YouTube, but going forward these issues should be resolved.

It was confirmed that Microsoft Teams Live was initially looked into at the start of utilising the remote working technology; there was a lot more background work surrounding this particular feature, and it wasn’t utilised at the start as the main priority was ensuring that meetings ran smoothly and staff were learning how to use the technology. Members were informed that the current arrangements were that the Council was proactively advertising online meetings and members of the public would be given a link and contact details for Democratic Services if they indicated that they wanted to view a meeting live; the meetings weren’t being streamed live, instead recorded and uploaded to YouTube. Officers stated that live streaming of meetings could be explored if the Committee agreed to this, as it would provide the public with a recording of the meeting instantly after the meeting had taken place; however, it was mentioned that although this work hadn’t had a financial impact on the Council, it did have an impact on staff time as the amount of extra work for Democratic Services and IT was considerable.


1. That Members note the update against the work tasked to the Democratic Services Committee in July 2019 – to introduce webcasting of Council meetings and to enhance public participation in the democratic process.


2. That Members note the impact of the Covid-19 emergency situation on the recommendations prepared by the Democratic Services Committee in respect of webcasting of Council meetings and notes the changes approved by Council in July 2020


3. That Members approve the next steps for progressing the work in relation to public participation namely:

·        what would be involved in establishing a petitioning arrangement, given that the Welsh Government propose to introduce this as a statutory duty and the Council already has an ICT system that could support such a scheme;

·        options for introducing rights of audience for certain meetings;

·        improvements to the democracy pages on the Council website;

·        explaining the forward work programmes and the mechanisms available to the public if they wish to influence agendas and debate.



In addition to the above:

·        Find out what Carmarthenshire council have in place in relation to Welsh translation during meetings / look further into servicing bilingual meetings

·        Explore live streaming of meetings




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