What de­ci­sions are taken on your be­half?

Opin­ion: Stacey Fel­gate from the Peo­ple’s Coun­cil calls for live stream­ing to start

The Oban Times - - News -

WHEN we held our monthly work­shop, and it was the turn of Dar­ren McGar­vey, aka Loki, to walk us through how liv­ing in a de­prived area im­pacts our stress lev­els, our qual­ity of life and our ac­cess to democ­racy.

One of the stand- out mo­ments was when he talked about how, post-2014, post-ref­er­en­dum pol­i­tics is do­ing us ac­tual harm, push­ing other­wise sen­si­ble peo­ple to fo­cus on huge con­sti­tu­tional ques­tions and score cheap points against ‘the other guys’ while life goes on and peo­ple strug­gle.

If you haven’t seen it, there has been a pe­ti­tion float­ing around on­line for a few weeks now, look­ing for pub­lic sup­port to live-stream coun­cil meet­ings.

Hardly rev­o­lu­tion­ary. In 2012, a work­ing group was set up to in­ves­ti­gate the use of on­line tech­nolo­gies for vot­ing, video con­fer­enc­ing and we­b­cast­ing. They rec­om­mended fit­ting the cham­ber with over £100,000 of new equip­ment to al­low live stream­ing of meet­ings so that we, the pub­lic, could see what was be­ing said and de­cided on our be­half.

So what hap­pened? The equip­ment was fit­ted but isn’t used. A few coun­cil­lors didn’t fancy be­ing on cam­era and the plan was scrapped.

At our hus­tings event a few months ago, a packed Cor­ran Halls stu­dio made it very clear that live stream­ing was some­thing the peo­ple of Oban and its sur­round­ing ar­eas wanted to hap­pen.

Seven of the eight coun­cil­lors since elected are on film agree­ing with us (An­drew Ven­nard didn’t at­tend). It’s in­ter­est­ing then that all seven have not rushed to sign the pe­ti­tion or lend sup­port to it. In­deed, a cynic might think that they were do­ing what they are told to rather than what they be­lieve in.

You see, of the eight coun­cil­lors elected to serve the Oban area, six of them joined the ad­min­is­tra­tion, a coali­tion of Con­ser­va­tive, Lib Dem and In­de­pen­dents, while the other two be­long to the SNP group which forms the op­po­si­tion.

This pe­ti­tion was put for­ward by an SNP coun­cil­lor, and Kil­mory is so dys­func­tional that the idea of giv­ing the SNP a ‘ win’ is beyond the pale for some.

And, so, an issue with cross-party and in­de­pen­dent sup­port which should be straight­for­ward be­comes a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball with pe­ti­tions fly­ing around and peo­ple tak­ing sides while we, the pub­lic, start to won­der why we paid for £100,000 of equip­ment we aren’t al­lowed to play with. Re­mem­ber what we said about post-2014 pol­i­tics harm­ing us in­stead of help­ing us?

Let’s be clear: live stream­ing coun­cil meet­ings is not go­ing to solve the prob­lem of lo­cal democ­racy in Ar­gyll and Bute - not even close – but it wouldn’t hurt to send a mes­sage which says: ‘This place is ours, you work for us, and we want to know what you are up to.’

So what­ever side of the po­lit­i­cal di­vide you find your­self on, sign the pe­ti­tion ( you’ll find a link on our Face­book page @Peo­plesCoun­cilAr­gyll) and de­mand what is right­fully yours: ac­cess to de­ci­sions be­ing made on your be­half. Then come to our next meet­ing. There will be cake.

Email: con­tact@thep­eo­ple­scoun­cil.org

Make your voice heard at the coun­cil cham­bers in Kil­mory.

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