THE public gallery was virtually empty again at last Thursday’s full council meeting. Why? We regularly hear of the good old days when the public benches were full of raucous hecklers and community campaigners. Where has everybody gone?
The lack of public interest could mean that everybody in Camden is so satisfied with what our elected members are doing that they don’t feel the need to try and speak in front of councillors or listen to what they have to say.
Or maybe the drab ‘you’re bad, no you’re bad’ political point-scoring became so boring that the people of Camden decided to watch the Leyton Orient versus Brentford match on Sky on Thursday night instead.
Or maybe the empty seats deceive us and there is a great interest but people are simply watching along on the live council website webcast instead of turning up to see our local politicians in the flesh. It would be interesting to see how many people logged on. The overseas branches of the Roger Robinson fanclub, who love his angry speeches about Rachmanite landlords, will depend on it. The sound and sight of Dynamite Don Williams in full flow meanwhile should surely be considered as a ‘pay per view’ option.
Webcasting is obviously a helpful service to journalists so you won’t catch me moaning and should any councillor ever say anything really controversial or meaningful then their views are ‘on record’ in the clearest terms – a good thing. But grumblers from places like the Tax-Payers Alliance might compare the viewing figures with the cost. Here’s the first half of that equation for them. Emails exchanged about the cost of webcasting suggest one session costs £70. HS2 campaigners had wanted a recording of a meeting being held at Camden Council tonight to be made.
In reply, Labour councillor Valerie Leach wrote back: “Costs would be incurred because an officer would need to operate the webcasting – overtime payments would be needed, the amount dependent on how long the meeting lasts – could be up to £70.”
The huge Italian audience logging on to watch the likes of Gio Spinella and Lazzaro Pietragnoli boss proceedings will think, like me, that is money well spent.