Call for live video streams for all Sheffield Council meetings

Meetings like this one in Sheffield Town Hall could be streamed via video in the future
Meetings like this one in Sheffield Town Hall could be streamed via video in the future

A call has been made to live stream all meetings at Sheffield Council to 'clear up ambiguities' and improve local democracy.

Yvonne Ridgeway, of Cross Hill, Ecclesfield said she was left 'dismayed' after councillors voted through plans for a micro pub after initial confusion.

Ms Ridgeway and other objectors called the planning meeting a 'farce' which saw councillors vote three times. She, and other objectors claimed the first vote actually rejected the plans. After another two votes, the plans were passed.

But council officials debated their version of events in letters sent to objectors.

Ms Ridgeway has said a live stream would hugely increase engagement in local issues and open people's eyes to what elected members are tasked to do.

She said: "The biggest controversy was the councillor’s vote to determine whether planning permission was granted. Eleven members of the public in attendance were unanimous in what they saw and heard.

"If recording and live broadcasting had been available at this planning meeting, I believe that the statements given by council officials at the meeting could be examined.

"The planning decision may have had a different outcome, the public would have felt reassured that everything was above board, and that in the event of any concerns, the recording could be checked.

"It feels as though the consensus is in favour of this, and it would help by getting more people involved in local issues as well as clearing up ambiguities."

Many other councils across the UK already have live streams including Bristol, Bolton, Bury, Stockport, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire to name a few.

Joint South Yorkshire Authority meetings are also live streamed from Barnsley.

But in a report seen by The Star, measures are being considered to 'increase public engagement' with an option to introduce more substantial 'audio and webcasting' options.

Jason Dietsch, head of member services at Sheffield Council said in a report: " Meetings of Full Council could be made more accessible and open to the public in order to increase public engagement.

"The focus should be on outcomes, with the aim of making full Council more accessible and transparent, enabling more people to participate, and providing better opportunities for local democracy.

"The Council wishes to make meetings accessible and open to people in order to address issues including engagement and transparency and increasing participation by both members of the public and Members of the Council, and providing better opportunities for local democracy."