Following a request by a number of Okehampton Town Councillors, the town council is set to rethink the decision not to livestream committee meetings made earlier this year in January.

At next week’s full council meeting (Monday March 27), councillors will review the decision after five town councillors made known their wish to reconsider whether or not to livestream the council’s committee meetings in an about-turn from the initial debate on the matter when only two councillors opposed the the livestreaming ban on committee meetings.

Town councillor Christine Marsh, said: ‘It’s transparency, let people see that we do discuss, we do debate. It’s an open public meeting so what’s the difference?’

A majority of councillors originally opposed the idea of broadcasting committee planning, property, parks and policy and resources – meetings live on Facebook, voicing the argument that a live broadcast could make councillors less willing to raise controversial opinions as committee meetings were working meetings where councillors had the opportunity to debate in depth.

Any decision made by the council remains in place for a total of six months unless otherwise challenged by at least five councillors when the topic goes up for discussion again.

Cllr Jan Goffey argued that livestreaming could ‘stifle free speech’ and, though she was happy to speak out, she was aware some were more ‘camera conscious’.

She added: ‘It’s a good thing to stop and think [about what you’re saying] but then you don’t get that gut reaction. People can be less vocal so in some ways it’s a problem.’

However, at the time of the meeting Cllr Julie Yelland, argued: ‘I think it’s very important to livestream. We should be open and transparent and we should not be saying anything we would not be prepared to say in the public domain.

‘I think it’s very important and we should livestream all public meetings.’

As yet, it is unknown whether the request to reconsider will result in a change of decision from the full council.

Any council decision remains in place for six months unless otherwise requested for re-debate by at least five councillors.

Okehampton Town Council currently livestreams all full council meetings through its Facebook page, a move first implemented after a policy and resources committee made the suggestion in April last year in order to increase transparency in local government.

West Devon Borough Council already livestreams all its meetings. The first livestreamed meeting was held in May last year at the annual meeting and Mayor Choosing event in order to ensure those unable to attend in person could watch the proceedings.

During covid lockdowns, council meetings were held virtually through video-conferencing platform Zoom but this was subsequently unfeasible after restrictions were removed as pre-pandemic council meeting laws require councillors to meet in person.

All council meetings are open to the public and anyone is able to attend.