Sunday 27 October 2013

Ceredigion starts filming council meetings

The first council meeting of Ceredigion County Council was broadcast on Thursday this week, and Pembrokeshire is expected to follow suit shortly.

In a statement to the press, Council Leader Ellen ap Gwynn said:

At a time when the Council will have to make tough decisions on behalf of the county’s residents, it is essential that the decision-making process is as open and transparent as possible, and broadcasting meetings online will enable people from all parts of Ceredigion, Wales and the world to view local democracy in action.

The decision by neighbouring authorities to begin filming will make it that little bit harder for die-hard opponents of filming in Carmarthenshire to pull the plugs when the council's pilot ends next year.

Watching the meeting broadcast from Aberaeron is a powerful reminder of how different the cultures of these two county councils are. The chief executive of Ceredigion certainly participates in the meetings, but to nothing like the same extent, and she does not run the show. The council's legal officer is also much less evident.

Councillors were not harangued, belittled or patronised at Thursday's meeting, and although combative politics are alive and well in Ceredigion, the poisoned atmosphere which characterises proceedings in Carmarthenshire was absent.

There were technical problems with the first broadcast. The camera sometimes failed to switch to whoever was speaking, and there are sound problems on the archived version from about 8 minutes in, but the meeting was nevertheless easier to follow and better structured than we are used to in Carmarthenshire.

For example, councillors are first asked if there are any inaccuracies in the minutes. Ellen ap Gwynn  pointed out an inconsistency between the Welsh and English minutes. That is unimaginable in Carmarthenshire for several reasons, not least because minutes in Carmarthenshire are invariably written from the point of view of those running the show, and often bare little relation to what happened in the meeting itself. Next councillors are asked for matters arising from the minutes, with no interference or attempts to stifle debate. Just imagine!

Ceredigion has its own fair share of problems, and it is having to grapple with an even tougher budgetary settlement than Carmarthenshire, but this county deserves to survive the reorganisation of local government that Carwyn Jones is hinting is on its way.

Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire have both spawned blogs which are exclusively or very largely devoted to reporting on their dysfunctional county councils. It surely says something about Ceredigion that there are none on the other side of the Teifi.

Anyone interested can access Ceredigion's archive here, or here if you wish to listen in English.

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