Apathy may rule, but webcasts are not waste of time
Reading your article about the poor viewing figures for City Council meetings (Mercury, Monday, July 30) struck a chord with me.
Well over 30 years of my career in local government was spent as a committee officer for Leicester City Council, Derby City Council and Leicestershire County Council.
My experience was that the public was largely apathetic about attending meetings of both the full council and committees, with a few notable exceptions.
Occasionally, certain planning applications attracted public attention and ensured a large turn-out.
I can also remember a very large public attendance at a Leicester City Council committee I was servicing when the council was proposing to increase the concessionary travel charge for OAPs – it was one of the noisiest and most hostile meetings I ever attended.
In recent times, public concern and interest in proposed sites for travellers in Leicester has guaranteed good attendance at meetings.
People often argue that the timing of meetings prohibits the public from attending.
I don’t believe this is true. In my time with Leicester City Council, most meetings did not start until 5pm and this later changed to 6pm.
Derby’s meetings did not start until 6.30pm, 7pm or even 7.30pm, but there were still very few occasions when the public attended in any numbers.
I usually had to throw away public copies of the agenda, unused.
During my career all sorts of initiatives were tried to encourage more people to attend or to take an interest in council meetings without great success, and it is clear that little has changed even in the age of new technology and the internet.
Your editorial is right in saying that EastEnders is not under threat from live broadcasts of council meetings, but that it is important for council decisions to be as transparent as possible.
As such, the money spent on webcasting is, I believe, well spent.
I also think that the “meet the city mayor” events are an important contribution to improving public involvement.
Steve Martin, Wigston.