Concern over Notts council spending £437k on remote meeting technology

Councillors were divided over plans to spend £437,000 to improve the quality of virtual meetings from the council chamber.

By Anna Whittaker
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 8:19 am

Nottinghamshire Council documents state the current equipment, approved before the coronavirus pandemic struck, is ‘outdated and unsuitable’.

It proposes to spend £437,341 on new equipment, including large, mounted, wall displays to allow officers to attend meetings virtually, while tracking cameras would be installed to focus on councillors when they speak.

However, some councillors opposed the plans – with one saying he could not justify the cost when he is supporting young people in his ward to access food.

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County Hall, Nottinghamshire Council's headquarters in West Bridgford.

Coun Keith Girling, council economic development and asset management committee chairman, said the plans were ‘about democracy’ and will ‘hold councillors to account’.

Six councillors voted for the plans, two against and three abstained during the meeting on January 25.

Coun Girling said: “The quality and standard of the live streaming is not sufficient at the minute to see and hear councillors debating.

“We have saved more than £1 million on expenses claims during the pandemic for travel.

“It’s important, especially when you are looking at social services and adult social care, that the quality of those conversations can be understood and heard.”

However, Coun David Shaw said: “This is a lot of money.

“I am having to support young people in my division to feed them.

“I cannot justify spending this on internet connection.”

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Democracy

Coun Girling said: “It is not a couple of microphones and internet connection. It is a lot of equipment.

“This is about openness, transparency and democracy.

“Anybody that doesn’t think we should be doing that, I worry about, to be frank.”

Coun Kate Foale said: “We’ve all experienced meetings in this chamber where the kit hasn’t worked, it is difficult.

“The big concern is it is an awful lot of money.”

Coun Roger Upton said: “I don’t personally think £437,000 or thereabouts is a massive amount of money given the context of this authority and its budget.”

Documents state the costs will be fully funded from a Covid grant, with £335,269.53 spent to improve equipment within the council chamber and the Rufford Suite, while a further £102,072.20 would be invested to provide technology in committee rooms B and C.

The plans will now be discussed by the council’s finance committee.

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