On the 13th of February 2014 I streamed a meeting of Cambridge City Council’s full council live on YouTube.
I believe this is the first time one of Cambridge City Council’s meetings has been “broadcast” live.
As well as being available live, the videos are available to watch again:
Public questions and petitions:
Councillors’ deliberations and votes.
Substance of the Meeting
The meeting was a special meeting to consider the local plan (the document against which future planning applications will be assessed). Councillors approved the draft plan with minor amendments, and it will now be considered by a planning inspector answerable to the Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles MP.
Councillors appeared to be distracted from the significance of the major decision in-front of them by the exact wording of a minor issue on which they all agreed – that access to any development on site of the council depot off Mill Road ought be from Mill Road and not the other adjacent streets.
The chair of the local lobby group Cambridge Past Present and Future argued the plan ought require sites in the city be developed before sites on the green belt. The executive councillor for planning disagreed, saying such a scheduling requirement wasn’t required in Cambridge as planning applications already came in rapidly on sites within the city.
The plan was approved in a vote in which all the Liberal Democrat councillors voted for the plan, Cllr John Hipkin voted against and the Labour councillors and the Conservative abstained.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Brierley voted for the plan, despite making a speech saying he agreed with Cllr Hipkin’s concerns about the growth of the city and saying it would never be possible to fully meet demand for housing in a city as attractive and desirable as Cambridge.
Direct links to notable elements of the videos
- Mayor Liberal Democrat Cllr Saunders taunts Labour Councillors saying: “At least I’ve got a house”. Labour members had been relating their own, and their consituents’ experiences struggling to afford to accommodation in the city.
- Mayor Liberal Democrat Cllr Saunders accidentally voted the wrong way, but quickly corrected himself, and allowed himself to change his vote.
- The vote on the local plan
- Cllrs Owers and Roberts struggling to stop laughing during debate on access to Mill Rd depot site
- Cllr Roberts’ “This is ridiculous” speech.
- Statement from CamLakes; which prompted the executive councillor for planning to commit to working with them to bring the Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits into use
- Chair of Cambridge Past Present and Future urging councillors to ensure sites in Cambridge are developed before green field sites.
Tweets from the meeting
Feedback on the filming
— Jonathan Whiteland (@chailey_) February 13, 2014
— The Dragon Fairy (@Puffles2010) February 13, 2014
— The Dragon Fairy (@Puffles2010) February 14, 2014
— Ashley Walsh (@Ashley_Walsh) February 13, 2014
— colin wiles (@colinwiles) February 13, 2014
The video of part one contains some omitted sections as the live feed was stopping and starting. I was attempting too high a quality feed for the internet connection available. I reduced the picture quality and streaming the second half of the meeting went without a hitch.
I have lobbied to remove some of Cambridge City Council’s silly rules which have previously restricted filming. (Cambridge City Council protocol on audio/visual recording and photography at council meetings)
The council still has a requirement that the chair is notified filming, recording or photography is taking place (which I followed). The mayor only referred to my notification despite a number of people taking and tweeting photos from the meeting. Following the council’s rules the chair asked if any members of the public present would like to opt out of being filmed. One did, they were sitting at the back of the public gallery and didn’t stay for long, so didn’t pose a problem. It would have been possible for a member for the public who spoke to opt out of being filmed. Someone could refuse to be filmed and then sit behind councillors, making it hard, if not impossible to film them.
Cllr Stuart, who has taken a photo of the public at a council meeting, without following the protocol, seeking permission, and giving people the opportunity to opt out:
— Sheila Stuart (@StuartSheila) January 13, 2014
The press desk in Cambridge Guildhall has a power point and there is WiFi internet (the latter is very poorly publicised, the password isn’t available within the chamber but on a laminated sheet of paper left in a committee room). Covering other meetings live without power and internet will be more challenging. (I have previously broadcast live from my mobile phone at the Police and Crime Commissioner count, and a Police and Crime Panel meeting, however using my video camera on a tripod connected to the computer provides much greater quality).
Hopefully some of the challenges faced by those wanting to report on council meetings will be addressed by the expected new law on filming meetings of local government bodies.