What decisions are taken on your behalf?
Opinion: Stacey Felgate from the People’s Council calls for live streaming to start
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.
Make your voice heard at the council chambers in Kilmory.