Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Paying up for the Balls on the Falls (Rise) ... and a proposal to stream Belfast City Council meetings online

model of Broadway roundabout sculpture - Rise

A couple of things converged today. Someone left a comment on yesterday’s post about the £36,000 budget hike in the Broadway roundabout sculpture that Belfast City Council were due to vote on last night (Tuesday). The anonymous commenter asked:

So what did the council decide to do?

It’s a great question. A straight Google search did turn up a council committee paper that referred to the overspend, but no answer. Unless you were present in the public gallery watching the council meeting or unless reporters present ran the story on the decision online, in this morning’s papers or in news bulletins ... then it’ll be a few weeks before the minutes of the meeting are approved and we can hear the results. I suppose someone could track down a councillor who was there and actually ask them!

Belfast SDLP Councillor Niall Kelly

But there’s another solution. Niall Kelly – SDLP councillor in South Belfast – issued a statement yesterday about a motion he had tabled for debate at the same council meeting last night. He was calling on the Belfast City Council to start streaming its meetings online.

“This motion is an attempt to bring forward a new era of openness and transparency to Belfast City Council by ensuring that in the future the monthly council meeting is streamed online, through the council website. The technology for this has been around for many years and I firmly believe that it is about time the council embraced this opportunity and moved into the twenty first century.

Already more than 80 local authorities in England and a number of larger councils in the Republic of Ireland, including Dublin City Council, not only stream their meetings online but archive the meetings, allowing people to see exactly what goes on in the chamber, at a time that suits them. As the largest council in the North of Ireland, Belfast should be leading the way on matters such as this.

At present there is provision for members of the public to watch the council proceedings from the public gallery but for many people this is neither practical nor convenient. It would be much easier for people if they were able to watch what is happening in the council in a way that suits them best.

Anything that we can do to highlight to the public to let them know what we are doing is to be encouraged. At a time when the public are increasingly suspicious of the actions of politicians I believe that we should be thinking of new and innovative ways of showing them the positive work that we are doing.”

I texted him and discovered that the motion had been referred to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee due to the financial implication. No doubt it will be on their agenda when they next meet on 11 December and hopefully they’ll report back in a few months, and the full council can them come back to the issue.

So in the meantime, back to the commenter’s question. Did the council approve the extra spend on the sculpture?


Belfast Telegraph logo

Thankfully, Brian Lovett reported in the Belfast Telegraph that the council agreed

“to pay £36,000 of the shortfall while the Department of Social Development (DSD) has agreed to provide another £30,000.”

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