Local Alliance councillor, Patrick Brown, is to introduce a motion with the aim of increasing transparency and accountability at a local government level. Although Council meetings are recorded, Cllr Brown is calling for meetings to be streamed live or for the pre-recorded videos of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council meetings to be made publicly accessible and uploaded online.
The motion, which is tabled for January’s meeting, is as follows:
“‘This council laments the fact that it is one of just two local authorities across Northern Ireland not to offer live streams or video recordings of its full council meetings. It notes the detrimental impact this has on transparency and public engagement with council business. It will immediately begin the process of ensuring either live streams or pre-recorded videos of full council meetings and statutory committees are uploaded to the council website, whichever is simpler to implement and offers best value for ratepayers.”
Cllr Brown commented: “When I ran for re-election, it was on an Alliance Party manifesto dedicated to increasing transparency in local government. On multiple occasions, attempts by Alliance councillors in our District to increase transparency have been voted down by the establishment parties of Council. This has included calls for the audio recording of working groups and project boards, and full audio recording of the planning committee.”
Cllr Brown continued: “Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions, we have all had to adapt to an increased use of technology and video in our day to day lives; be it for work meetings, healthcare appointments, or even catching up with loved ones. I feel strongly that Council should be open to embracing technological change and become more progressive and proactive it its approach to engaging with ratepayers”
Cllr Brown concluded: “Furthermore, in periods of uncertainty, the need to provide accessible, online means of public engagement with Council is more important than ever. Livestreams and video recordings of meetings can play a vital role in achieving this.”
“In comparison to other councils, NMAD Council is very much an outlier when it comes to transparency and public availability of its council meetings. Constituents across Newry, Mourne and Down should be able to see how their elected representatives are operating, as it allows for increased accountability. I hope my Council colleagues will see this as an opportunity to be more open with our community and support this motion.”