Cheshire East Council has decided that they will start to making audio recordings of their meetings and look into making these available for public viewing - which is something other councils, including Cheshire West & Chester, have been doing for several years.
At a meeting of the Constitution Committee last month members considered the audio-recording of decision-making meetings for the purpose of resolving any disagreement over the accuracy of the draft minutes.
The Constitution Committee agreed to recommend that all decision-making meetings of the Council would be subject to audio-recording, including overview and scrutiny committees, and any member may request that the audio recording of that meeting be reviewed in order to clarify the wording of a draft minute.
Additionally it was agreed to recommend to the Full Council that the audio recordings be destroyed after six months unless a Freedom of Information request was made in respect of the recording and the Council would be asked to consider whether the audio recordings of meetings should be published on the Council's website.
Following a meeting of Full Council on Thursday, 20th October, where members agreed to the recommendations, the Chief Executive of Cheshire East Council asked for the agreed arrangements for audio-recording of meetings to be expedited.
Mike Suarez told councillors "I am pleased to confirm that we have taken delivery of the first audio-recording device, and have tested this under limited conditions, with very positive results. Further devices have now been ordered so that recordings of all meetings can be made.
"I have also asked for enquiries to be made in order to establish exactly what will be needed to upload recordings to the Council's website. There will be some technical requirements around this. For example, the webcast recordings of Cabinet meetings have to be stored on a server, which is hosted by an external provider. I hope that we will be able to make swift progress in implementing arrangements to make recordings available on the website.
"I will keep you informed of progress."
Councillor Rod Menlove, who is a member of the Constitution Committee, said "This is a very welcome decision that supports openness and transparency and means that those who are not able to attend these open meetings can hear from the council website precisely what was said and agreed.
"The other benefit is that action decisions in the minutes can be cross-checked against audio-recordings rather than hand written notes.
"We debated this in Constitution Committee and agreed to recommend adoption and a speedy implementation. I am pleased to see the commendable sense of urgency in ordering equipment and resolving any technical matters so that recordings are soon available on the website."
Councillor Craig Browne, who voted against the recommendations, said "I clearly have no issue with meetings being recorded to ensure accurate minutes are kept (this happens already at Parish Council meetings); however, I felt that there were insufficient safeguards in place to prevent recordings being either misused or used for inappropriate (i.e. political) reasons and therefore I decided to vote against."