9 April 2021
What is Talking Point?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every week. Here, we share our responses.
Today's Question: What are the pros and cons of making remote meeting arrangements permanent?
The Cambridge Green Party has taken part in a number of different local authority’s meetings using video conferencing. We have submitted and then asked questions, and spoken on issues etc. We have found both advantages and disadvantages.
It is easier for members of the public to access meetings, provided that they are well publicised, and joining the session is simple.
It is cheaper and less time consuming to attend meetings for all concerned.
This should save money and reduce the environmental impacts of travel, while increasing safety.
It increases access for some disabled people.
Documents can be examined easily and quickly on screen so they do not have to be printed off.
There is a considerable inequity in access to the Internet.
Many people, especially older citizens find it difficult to use the technology which is not always reliable.
There are financial and environmental costs of technology; acquiring it, maintaining it and buying software; and running it both at home and the internet servers.
Humans prefer to have face-to-face social contact - without it we feel uneasy. Video conferencing is tiring.
The informal contact aspect is lost, as well as the many often unexpected good ideas and understandings that come from random contact.
Chairing the meetings properly is even more important than in ‘normal’ meetings. Strong people may dominate and prevent less forceful individuals from participating.
In conclusion, on the whole it would be better to continue using remote access and occasionally have ‘normal’ meetings. It may be optimal to have hybrid meetings.
One solution to unequal Internet access would be to have video conferencing facilities at local libraries and other local hubs. Small groups could participate together thus giving each other encouragement and some social contact. Classes could be offered in the use of this facility.
Today's author is Naomi Bennett. Naomi is an accountant and a long time resident in Abbey Ward. She stood as the Green candidate in the City Council elections in 2019 and doubled the Green share of the vote. She is standing again in 2021.