PLANS to broadcast council meetings live on the internet have been branded a waste of money.
Hampshire County Council is spending £205,000 on setting up the new system for its council chamber in Winchester, and it is expected to be used for the first time during today’s budget meeting.
The council leader has defended the scheme, saying that it will provide greater transparency to the public, and the old audio system needed updating.
But Lib Dem member for Portchester, Cllr Roger Price said: ‘With the cuts that have been going on across the county – reductions in services, library hours being cut, youth services and so on, is allocating nearly a quarter of a million to broadcasting the best way to spend it?
‘Even if there was plenty of money floating around it would be a luxury to do, but at the moment we are going through hard times and services for the community we serve are being cut.
‘This is a total waste of money.’
Tory council leader, Cllr Ken Thornber, said: ‘The county council has a strong track record around transparency, and in line with the aims of the government’s Localism Act, by opening up some of our public meetings to a wider audience in this way, we hope that this will empower local residents and communities.
‘By streaming important meetings online as they happen, and providing archived footage afterwards, this will give people a greater understanding of the difficult decisions that need to be made in the current economic climate, and how the council is representing the interests of the county’s 1.28m residents to protect front-line services.
The cost includes £95,000 to replace the old audio system, £60,000 for the new visual system and cameras, as well as £50,000 for installation in the council chamber and one other committee room.
Cllr Thornber added: ‘Members have contributed £90,000 as a result of their underspend in their members’ budgets in 2011/12.’
But Cllr Price said: ‘If there was a members’ budgets underspend, that money could have been better spent elsewhere, even on a one-off capital expense.’
The meeting starts today at 10am. Go to hants.gov.uk to watch online.