Has Midlothian got talent?

Midlothian Council's HQ
Midlothian Council's HQ

Opposition councillors have hit out at proposals to screen live coverage of the goings on at Midlothian Council meetings.

The year-long trial of webcasts has described as a “vanity project” by Labour councillors.

They are angry that the cash could be better spent in local communities rather than on a service which could attract a small number of viewers.

Gorebridge councillor Jim Muirhead (Lab) argued that the £93,000 cost over five years would be put to better use funding local groups which are working in the most in need areas.

Council Leader Councillor Catherine Johnstone (SNP) said: “As councillors we are all accountable 
to our constituents. Webcasting is a great way for local people to find out about what their elected representatives are doing to improve communities. Viewers will be able to see exactly how their councillors voted and give feedback by email on issues affecting them.”

Green councillor Ian Baxter welcomed the decision: “This is an excellent way to encourage public engagement and make our councillors more accountable and decision making more transparent.

“The cost of implementing it is relatively small and we all acknowledge that the audio system in the chamber is needing replaced, so now is the right time to do this.”

Councillor Muirhead, whose ward is one of the top 20 per cent poorest areas in Scotland, said: “Although there is part of me would welcome any additional scrutiny that the administration would be put under by the introduction of TV cameras, in the current economic environment where every penny counts we should be spending resources in areas where it will make the biggest difference.

“If people want to listen to councillor’s contributions at meetings they can already do so by going to the council’s website.

“The SNP argument for pressing ahead with this seemed to be wholly based on concerns that other council’s are doing it and we should not be falling behind. We need to make decisions that are best for our people not to keep up with our neighbours.”

Labour Group leader Derek Milligan said: “It is a vanity project between the SNP and Green Party. I think there will be role playing and acting by the administration who are supported by the officers.”

It will be possible to replay meetings after they have taken place on computers, tablets or smartphones while accessing supporting information such as agenda documents and powerpoint presentations.

The meetings will be filmed, streamed live and archived for a year at an initial set up cost of around £33,000 and £14,899 annually thereafter.