Tag Archives: jackie weaver

Online participation in Council meetings must be allowed again

Jackie Weaver has said that she wants online Council meetings to continue. Although I am sure she knows the difference, this article from the BBC does rather muddy the waters by not distinguishing between streaming Council meetings and remote participation in them (although it does give us another chance to watch the meeting that introduced us to Jackie Weaver’s authority).

Nearly 20 years ago I was asked to chair the National Project for Local e-Democracy, with the remit to explore digital means to improve democratic participation in Council decision-making. At that time some Councils did not even have a website, and where they existed they were non-transactional. The Project pioneered online consultation and petitions at Council level, amongst other things, and encouraged councillors to use online methods of communication with residents, including blogs, which were the only social media available at the time.

Webcasting was another of our initiatives, and many councils adopted the streaming, and subsequent playback, of Council meetings. The systems usually allowed for some interaction through chat. The intention was to allow residents to observe and follow the people they had elected.

At the time the technology for online meetings did not exist, and, as we all know, Zoom and other platforms were only adopted widely during the pandemic. They meant that both Parliament and local councils were able to continue to run meetings and debates without breaking the Covid restrictions.  However, remote participation at both levels did require a change in the Government regulations.

Those regulations for Local Government ended on 7th May 2021. However Covid restrictions were still in place at that time, which meant that social distancing would have to be observed by anyone attending an in-person meeting. In practice this made it impossible for Full Council meetings to be held in many Council chambers, as there was not enough room to space people out.  Pleading for hybrid solutions (a mix of in-person and online attendance) was rejected by the Government, even though they still continued in Parliament.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 2 Comments

You have no authority here, Mata Hari

The vultures are circling. Old Labour bruisers and a host of hangers-on have gathered. They scent blood. A frail looking 30 year old woman is about to chair her first council meeting and it is time for some fun at her expense. 

She starts. She gets through the announcements. Just about. She fluffs the order of the amendments. The old municipal bruisers roll their eyes. Labour head honcho grins and nods sagely to his entourage. A kindly officer rescues the young councillor and she ploughs on. She eyes the enemy. With their unerring eye grasp of detail the Labour councillors have noticed that she has long black hair and they wittily call her “Morticia” and “Barbie” behind her back. They think she doesn’t know that.

But, gradually the rookie politician picks up the pace. She sidesteps Councillor head honcho and his posse. With a neat grasp of standing orders she shoots a Labour motion down in flames before it is even presented.

Head honcho pounces:

“Madam Chair this is an abuse”

“You would know all about that” retorts rookie councillor

“That’s rich from Mata Hari over there”

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments
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