WAG CONSULTATION ON REMOTE ATTENDANCE

20th July 2013                                                                      

 

Scrutiny, Democracy and Participation Team

Welsh Government

Cathay’s Park

Cardiff

CF10 3NQ

 

Dear Sir

 

Consultation – Remote Attendance at Council Meetings

 

I write in response to the above consultation.

 

The Association

The North Wales Association represents 34 Town and Larger Community Councils in Mid and North Wales.

 

Introduction

The consultation is that Councillors could take part in Council Meetings by remote means by way of a video link.  The proposals have made suggestions with regard to how this could be done and points out how such an idea could be put into operation.

 

Consultation

The Association has considered the consultation paper and is not in favour of the proposals.

 

Points of concern

The Council is not happy with the proposals for the following reasons:

 

i)                    Remote Video Links

The provision of such equipment is costly and not justified.

The space required and the operation of such links carries a cost with it. Also often at meetings the Clerk is asked to produce pictures or evidence for a particular subject, this would not be easily covered if a link was used.  Also papers are sometimes issued at meetings; again this would not be possible with the proposed links.

 

ii)                  Cost of provision of such Links

The idea of a remote link has a cost implication which in times such as these is unwarranted apart from compatibility problems.

 

iii)                Possible misuse

The use of video link could give rise to misuse, i.e. others talking to the Councillor by passing papers around etc.  The Association does not feel that public confidence would be helped with such a system in place.

 

iv)               Security and confidentiality

On those matters which are confidential there are no guarantees that this would be respected by the remote Councillor unless an officer is present (even this is open to corruption).

 

v)                 Historic basis of democracy

The UK has based is democracy to date upon Members only being able to vote if they are present in the meeting.  This has a historic base and applies to all levels of government.

The Association does not support any change to this basis.

 

vi)               Co-option and Elected Councillors

The suggestion that Co-opted Councillors should not be allowed to be remote when those elected would have that right creates a two tier system which is unacceptable.  Councillors who are

Co-opted should be treated no differently to those who have stood for election (either elected or unopposed).

 

vii)             Staffing and cost

The cost and availability of staff to attend remote links is not practical nor is the cost justified.

 

viii)           Translation and Welsh Language

The issue of translation has to be considered. The cost of such provision is again not justified.

 

ix)               Faults in system

If the system fails, as will happen from time to time, the meeting would have to end to be fair.  This is not an acceptable situation.

 

x)                 Councillors leaving early

If Councillors leave early from a meeting it could leave more people on remote links and this is not only unsatisfactory nor is it good for the efficient of running a Council.

 

xi)               Choice

The Association would be more than concerned if any Council was forced to take up the options under these proposals. Particularly at Town and Community Council level.

 

Objection to the proposals

The Association wishes to put on record its objection to the proposals due to the points of concern listed above.

 

I confirm that the Association is willing to give oral evidence to any Committee regarding the above if you felt it would be helpful.

 

Yours faithfully

 

 

 

Robert A Robinson FRICS AILCM
Secretary