Council meeting takes a buffering
ALONG with a few Shinfield residents I attended the Wokingham Full Council meeting on Thursday, November 22.
It was due to be a cracker with Council Leader making a resignation statement and an over 4,000 Barkham residents petition being debated.
The public gallery was full so about 50 of ‘the public’ were directed to a back room where the meeting would be broadcast. The technology was proving difficult but after multiple buttons being pushed by some very patient Council employees we were up and running, just in time. Or were we? Every couple of minutes the screen froze (buffering). Our ‘support team’ press a few buttons and we were back up again.
The anticipated Leaders speech started but was accompanied by an extremely loud hacking cough from someone who obviously had forgotten their microphone was on. We then buffered again followed by more strategic coughs and more buffering. We did get some of the speech and the bits we could hear were well received.
We then had a variety of pre-notified questions most of which were well structured and well delivered by the presenters. One Official seemed to take responsibility for answering most of these questions.
We think his name was Mr Mumble (sounded something like that) as we could not actually understand or hear much of what he said.
One of our public audience started texting those in the chamber to try and get some idea of what was happening and then kindly relayed these updates to those close by. Buffering, coughing and now what sounded like furniture removals (new Leader office move maybe) were regular distractions, so much so that people started leaving. Following the example set from within the Chamber many were mumbling a range of comments as they left. Not sure where the brewery is but it must have been close by.
Our very patient and frustrated technical help team were continually up and down pressing various buttons to try and keep some form of flow.
The Barkham petition at last arrived – all those still left in the room (more had left by now) sat forwards in anticipation. More buffering and coughs but now our help team were nowhere to be seen. Thankfully a couple of our public audience stepped forwards and pressed a few buttons. Back up and going. Cough, cough, cough – someone mentioned Who Wants to be a Millionaire – surely not?
A series of presenters spoke clearly and passionately in support of the petition and demanded that Wokingham Borough Council must start listening to residents.
Thanks to our self-service and now returned inhouse support team we actually had a ripple of applause for what we could at last hear.
We got a clear response from one Official which ended with a plea for residents to get engaged in the Local Plan Update. But then it was back to Mr Mumble (more people left).
Mumble was getting worse as the night went on. No one could hear or understand and even our text spy in the chamber could not help as mumble had defeated even him.
We could see a piece of paper being distributed – what was on it we had no idea. Then a couple of hands were raised. Then what (buffer, cough, rustle of paper) appeared to be a vote took place. What had they voted on? We will no doubt find out in next week’s paper.
The meeting then must have moved on to things of a more confidential nature as the broadcast simply shut down.
For some this was a first experience of how Wokingham Council operate. We have recently had multiple appeals to residents to get involved in local politics especially through the Local Plan update consultation. Can we assume this will involve no buffering, coughing and mumbling?
Was this Council meeting experience just a result of unfortunate circumstances or is it reflective of a mumbling, technically challenged set of behaviours where listening is made difficult and the focus is on fulfilling process and not ensuring resident engagement?
Only time will tell! It’s time for drastic action, time to
And (just as importantly) it’s
definitely “time for us all to talk” (For the sake of our children,
And the future of our society).