Opposition criticise live-stream failure during key meeting about council's finances

Slough Borough Council aims to home rough sleepers staying in Datchet hotel

Opposition parties have criticised the council for allowing a vital meeting into the handling of its finances to go-ahead despite viewers being unable to watch online.

Members of the local authority’s audit and corporate governance committee met on Tuesday night to discuss two damning reports by audtiors Grant Thornton into the council’s 2018/19 financial accounts.

The meeting took place face-to-face at the council’s Observatory House headquarters following a High Court ruling that virtual council meetings cannot be held after May 6.

But viewers were left frustrated as a live-stream of the meeting failed with those watching from home greeted with a black screen stating ‘stream will start shortly’.

The technological failure could not be resolved and the meeting into the council’s concerning financial position continued as planned.

Matthew Taylor, chairman of the Liberal Democrats in Slough, said: “We do not think under the circumstances the meeting should have proceeded.

“Although the council have resumed physical meetings, under the explicit instructions of central Government, the COVID-19 restrictions mean that numbers are strictly limited, making the live broadcasting of meetings online as vital as ever.”

Mr Taylor, who contested Cippenham Meadows ward at the recent local elections, also criticised the council for publishing the damning reports days after voters had gone to the polls to vote in the local elections.

A spokeswoman for Slough Borough Council said there is no legislation requiring the local authority to livestream meetings which are able to go ahead face-to-face in public.

A recording of the meeting was placed online the following morning.

Conservative councillor Dexter Smith, who attended the audit and corporate governance committee meeting in person, told the Express it was ‘very important’ the meeting was made accessible to as many members of the public as possible.

He said: “I think it’s very important because we’re dealing with large sums of public money and this is the start of a process but not the end of it. It’s the first time we’ve heard in recent years the council has got a serious financial problem and has yet to get fully to grips with it.

“When we’re told there will have to be further savings this year of £16million and £18million next year it’s clear to me there will have to be an in-year budget adjustment and current spending projects will have to be reviewed.”

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