Harrogate councillor pays £2,000 of own cash to cover cost of livestreaming meetings

A Harrogate councillor has agreed to pay more than £2,000 of his own cash to cover the cost of livestreaming meetings after last year ripping up a cheque when the idea was rejected.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 3:32 pm
Pictured is Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Aldred, who represents the Harrogate Fairfax ward.

Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Aldred first put forward the idea to livestream in-person council meetings in January 2020 but he was rejected because of claims that the "tens of thousands of pounds" needed to buy the equipment would have been too expensive.

At the time, the exact quoted costs were never made public although councillor Aldred said they were "not excessive" as he offered to pay for the equipment himself and tore up a cheque in front of other council members when his failed proposal was put to bed.

More than a year on, and after the coronavirus pandemic forced the livestreaming of both remote and in-person meetings, councillor Aldred this month faced calls from Conservative council leader Richard Cooper to follow up on his offer of payment "as a matter of honour".

Speaking at a meeting of the council's general purposes committee last Thursday, councillor Cooper said: "It was a genuine offer, I assume, made for a genuine purpose and not just for party political chicanery.

"If a councillor makes a genuine offer to pay for a service and that service is provided then I would expect the honourable thing to do is to pay.

"Otherwise, I think everyone will assume that the offer was never genuine in the first place."

At Thursday's meeting, councillor Aldred presented a cheque for £2,180 - the actual cost of livestreaming equipment which was installed last month and is now to become a permanent feature of meetings.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, councillor Aldred later said he was happy to pay the money and that he had made a number of requests for all meetings to be livestreamed, publicised and archived, and that councillors are offered training for presentation skills.

He said: "I am happy to personally facilitate this purchase by the council, as long as my 'buyers conditions' are met and as the council leader gave assurance at the meeting that they would be – and obviously that is now on record for all to see.

"Richard has now guaranteed this will all happen and a relatively small financial contribution on my part to ensure this is no hardship

"I strongly believe that if these conditions I have requested are met then it will enable more residents to view and perhaps more fully understand our deliberations, not just at full council and planning as was originally envisaged, but across all council committees.

"I think leaving the meeting online for a longer period will increase the opportunity for meetings to be viewed at a time and place convenient to the public - and not the council.

"If my requests are not fully met, I would be looking for some sort of recompense from the council, but I have no reason to doubt they will not be."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter