Arun District Council’s £40k webcast spend voted down

Plans to spend £40,000 replacing Arun District Council’s ageing webcasting system have been voted down.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 5:41 pm

At a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (May 12), questions were asked about whether the equipment would be good value for money or if the situation should be reviewed and something more affordable explored.

Leader James Walsh stressed the need to replace the current ‘creaking and cranky’ equipment.

He said: “If this council wants to portray a modern web-casting version of its proceedings to the public, who have been watching in ever-greater numbers during lock-down, then we have no option but to upgrade the equipment. The present equipment will grind to a halt very soon.”

Others did not agree. One of the major concerns was that a broadband subscription and the maintenance of the new system would cost £21,000 per year.

Paul English (Con, Felpham East) said: “We know that what’s in the chamber isn’t the best thing since sliced bread – I don’t think it’s even burnt toast.

“We have to do a proper review but have all-party councillors who have any inkling whatsoever on a technical basis to be able to scrutinise and to review all of it and to come up with a specification for the future.”

Jacky Pendleton (Con, Middleton-on-Sea) agreed, adding: “I don’t think, in the current financial circumstances, we should go ahead with this sort of cost.”

The money included £8,000 for three cameras, £15,000 for webcast capability upgrades, £4,000 for cabling and other sundries and £13,000 for the system to be installed.

The original plan included £18,000 for a laser projector and screen, and £7,000 for screens on the desks.

These were removed during a cabinet meeting in September after a number of councillors said they didn’t think so much should be spent given the financial difficulties brought about by the pandemic.

Some councillors, including Claire Needs (Lib Dem, Aldwick West) felt more research needed to be done to find a system which could support hybrid meetings – meetings in which some people are in the room while others join remotely.

The recommendation was voted down by 26 votes to 19 with four abstentions.