Lewisham Council has begun webcasting its meetings. The first-ever recording was made on Wednesday and is available to view here now.
This has to be the right way forward. Traditional local media cannot cover the Council meetings in detail and many Councillors and prospective Councillors have in the past complained that meetings have not always been run in the best interests of local democracy, with the Mayor's decisions shielded from proper scrutiny by councillors.
The service is very high-quality and includes bookmarks that allow you to jump to any member's question and search for contributions by speaker (neither of Brockley ward's new Councillors made a contribution on Wednesday, although Cllr Johnson made several).
Some highlights include:
13:30mins - Cllr Johnson asks whether the Council believes that enough has been done to reassure the public in the wake of the recent spate of shootings in Brockley. Answer: yes, they do.
21:30mins - Cllr Johnson asks whether the Deputy Mayor believes there's a case for strengthening conservation area enforcement to provide better regulation of the types of local businesses operating in places like Brockley Mews. Answer: Maybe, but it would be a borough-wide response, rather than just a conservation area issue.
Broadcasting the sessions should not only help keep Lewisham residents better informed, but also ensure meetings are conducted to a high-standard.
However, check out the initially facetious and ultimately useless response by the Deputy Mayor in response to a supplementary question to Johnson's question about rogue businesses. When asked about enforcement, where residents' regular complaints are ignored, the Deputy jokingly asks whether anyone's reported the problems and then says "we really only have two planning enforcement officers and it takes a long time to get round to them." (22.46).
There's also a depressing amount of points-scoring based on national political squabbles, which serves no valuable purpose in terms of arriving at the right solutions to local problems.
It may take a while for the glare of digital scrutiny to improve the quality of local democracy, but it's a vital step.
Let us know if you spot any important moments from Wednesday's meeting. Thanks to Cllr Johnson for sending the link.