Thursday 04th June 2020,
North Yorks Enquirer

Digital Dithering

Digital Dithering

A Letter to the Editor from BOB ROBERTS, enquiring about the fate of democracy when local authority functions are reduced to virtual ‘meetings’, behind closed shutters.

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Sir,

So the Scarborough News announces that SBC will hold virtual meetings via the Zoom application, due to the Covid-19 pandemic…

I do wonder why that is, when the House of Commons is still in session with the potential of almost 650 MPs turning up to scrutinise policy, albeit through the facility of using digital technology to augment such face-to-face meetings as are now permitted under the slightly relaxed Covid-19 regulations.

Surely, taking into account the size of the Council Chamber, the low numbers of Councillors and Officers present at Cabinet, the existing digital facilities within the Chamber (generally quite reliable, free of any rental charges, and presenting zero potential in terms of any security issues associated with the SBC IT infrastructure and data management), there is no reason why a suitably socially-distanced physical Cabinet meeting should not proceed?

At least then some kind of scrutiny could be applied by us, the electorate, and by Councillors eager to hold this administration to account.

Another alternative would be to allow the Cabinet meeting to proceed and enable all the iPads (as supplied at great expense at the insistence of previous administrations for precisely this kind of eventuality) to be fed into a Zoom conference. Surely that’s not too difficult for the “brilliant” IT department (so described by the Council Leader)?

Is there a reason, perhaps, for this “open and transparent” administration to fear scrutiny?

Best regards.

Bob Roberts

Scarborough

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