Overview and Scrutiny is recommending the continuation of webcasting at Epping Forest District Council. Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee received a detailed report from Democratic Services Manager Simon Hill on Thursday 2 August 2007 setting out the success of the pilot scheme which has seen viewing figures increase to around 2,000 a month since the introduction of webcasting a year ago.
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Councillors heard that although a relatively small Council in comparison with many others, Epping Forest District Council now achieved some of the best viewing figures of any local authority in the Country. The integration of webcasting with other forms of communication such as The Forester and local press, as well as embedded links throughout the Council website have helped to encourage residents to access a range of content. In addition to Council meetings, staff have made a number of other projects available online including video of the Celebration of Faith, Civic Awards, school projects produced in partnership with the Council`s Leisure Service and an energy efficiency DVD provided by Environmental Services.
The Council has also made webcasting available to the West Essex PCT for consultation on their new district-wide strategy and is working on more projects with local schools and Epping Forest College.
Mr Hill reported that other councils were watching the development of innovative webcasting projects at Epping Forest District Council as examples of best practice to follow.
The webcasting cameras and broadcasting equipment are leased to the Council by a company called Public-i. Public-i also provides the streaming facilities that allow the Council to place webcasts on the Internet. Funding of £17,000 for the pilot stage had been provided by Central Government but following evaluation, the Council must now decide whether to continue funding the equipment itself.
Councillors of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee strongly supported the continuation of the project. There was general agreement that the pilot had been extremely successful and was likely to grow in the future. The Committee agreed to recommend to Cabinet that expressions of interest be sought to test the value of the Public-i service and that the Council should continue to build on the success of the pilot.
Councillor Richard Morgan Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny thanked Simon Hill for the hard work and enthusiasm both he and other Council staff had shown in bringing the pilot project forward.
After the meeting Councillor Morgan said: We can`t under-estimate the potential value of webcasting. Local Government needs to re-establish its links with local people. We need to make ourselves accessible and accountable. People lead busy lives and we can`t expect them to turn up in their hundreds to every Council meeting. Webcasting has already proved able to overcome that barrier. We now have virtual audiences of hundreds of people at some of our meetings which can only be excellent news for local democracy.