Coun­cil meet­ing takes a buffer­ing

The Wokingham Paper - - VIEWPOINTS - Jim Frewin, Shin­field Paul Farmer, Read­ing

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

change

And (just as im­por­tantly) it’s

def­i­nitely “time for us all to talk” (For the sake of our chil­dren,

ado­les­cents

And the fu­ture of our so­ci­ety).

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