Cheshire East Council has embarked on audio webcasts of all of its decision-making public meetings.
The move follows a successful trial of the recording technology over several months and will see both live audio and archived recordings made available to the public.
The new arrangements will bring increased transparency and access to debates and decisions for those who cannot attend council meetings in person.
It also comes at a vastly reduced cost – around £4,000 a year in total – compared with £30,000 for video webcasting of cabinet meetings only.
Councillor Peter Groves, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for democratic and public engagement, said: “The council places great importance on transparency around its decision-making – but it also recognises this must be balanced by consideration of the cost to the public purse.
“The changes we have made have greatly expanded the recording of all formal meetings across the council – totalling around 200 a year – and brought greater openness and transparency to the work that we carry out on behalf of our residents.”
Because Cheshire East has no permanent, dedicated council chamber and holds a high number of public meetings, the costs of setting up and dismantling video recording equipment for council meetings has proved prohibitive (costing around £30,000 a year to video webcast cabinet only).
Figures showed that only about 65 people viewed the live video and 141 viewed the archived video. A number of these will have been council staff members.
Cllr Groves added: “The view was taken by elected members that, whilst arrangements should be kept under review, a less costly balance needed to be found which ensured transparency of decision making.
“Now, with audio recordings of all meetings being made available live online and on our archive, people who cannot attend meetings can be informed in a timely manner about the debate and decisions taken across the whole range of business of council – and not just cabinet meetings.
“Moreover, the relevant audio recording of debate and decisions is now attached to each agenda item’s minutes – saving listeners from having to search across a recording of the whole meeting.
“This is particularly helpful given that some planning meetings, for example, have been known to last for almost 10 hours.
“I am pleased to say that, generally, the recording system has worked extremely effectively for meetings and we have had very positive feedback from council members and the public in relation to the audio system we have introduced.
“The council believes residents will welcome this expansion of openness and transparency – and the greater value for money it delivers for local council taxpayers.”