Thursday, November 05, 2020

Cumbria County Council meeting 5th November 2020

 What on earth can I say?

There is certainly no shortage of analogies for the County Council meeting today, which also happens to be bonfire night.

I could say that it was a damp squib, or that it provided the wrong type of fireworks. Or compare it to a slow-motion car crash.

The first full council meeting held online using Microsoft Teams had been very successful and went extremely well, as well as some meetings held physically on one place.

This one didn't, and the fact that the Conservatives won a vote at a full council meeting for the first time in the three-and-a-half years since the present council was elected was slim consolation.

It has been suggested that the internet problems which a majority of members had when we first tried to log on, and which some councillors continued to experience right through the meeting, may ahve been due to the fact that it was the first day of the new national lockdown and a lot of people working rom home were putting a strain on the local telecoms network. We were advised: of widespread connectivity issues at Keswick and Silloth, and although the representatives from those areas did manage to get online at the meeting to tell us about them, they may well have had a point.

The links in the calendar invitations which councillors had been sent did not work properly: we were advised of another route in which worked for most of us, but the start of the meeting had to be put back fifteen minutes because it took a while to get most of the council connected. The roll call demonstrated that we were still quite a bit short - including several councillors who had been on online briefing calls earlier this morning and were still trying to log on.

A Conservative councillor proposed a short adjournment - I know his intention was a fifteen minute break and that's how the chair took it when the motion was passed - to try to get everyone connected.

Sadly it appeared that we still had a problem when the meeting reconvened.

An independent councillors then propose that the meeting be adjourned for today, that the IT issues be sorted out, and we reconvene in a few days' time. That was passed by a very large majority.

We have to take this as a wake-up call. We have manged to hold a previous full council meeting online, a health scrutiny meeting, and lots of local committee, planning, and other scrutiny meetings. We need to make sure our IT is up to the jobs of working remotely - lots of businesses manage it. The public are entitled to expect the same thing of the county council.

The full council meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday 19th November 


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