Meetings could go

MEETINGS of the county council may be broadcast live over the internet to encourage greater public interest in its work and to boost voter turnout in elections.

MEETINGS of the county council may be broadcast live over the internet to encourage greater public interest in its work and to boost voter turnout in elections.

Normally only one in three electors bother to go vote in local elections, although the turnout in the last two county elections in 1997 and 2001 was swollen to between 60 per cent and 70pc because they coincided with the General Election.

A cross-party panel of county councillors chaired by Conservative Charles Michell reports next week on how to improve voter turnout.

"There may be many reasons for people not bothering. Perhaps they have lost interest because they believe the council does not involve them in decision making or they may think all parties are the same and voting makes no difference in how the council is run.


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"Voting in elections since 1945 has generally been on the decline. How much of this can be attributed to deliberate abstention as opposed to apathy will not be know until we put an abstention box on the ballot paper and make voting compulsory as it is in Australia and some European countries."

Mr Michell said: "Anything we as councillors can do to encourage the public to take an interest in the running and decision making of the authority should be investigated.

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"That's why we are recommending the purchase of a web casting system to allow people to log on and watch the proceedings of the council over the Internet.

"Although we will need to investigate how much this would cost, we believe it would increase the council's accountability and openness and also provide another means of consulting with the public."

Alternative methods of voting such as total postal ballots and via the Internet needed to be scrutinised but could only be introduced with the full co-operation of the seven district councils in Suffolk and nationally approved.

Mr Michell's panel is also recommending that councillors' surgeries should be held in schools, residential homes, libraries and youth clubs and that all council committee reports should be written in plain English and made more interesting and accessible.

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