Minutes etc should be published much quicker

Proposer
tmtmtmtm
State

Rejected

Vote Score

-998

Age

2212 days


@tmtmtmtm edited manifesto/local_government.md - about 6 years ago

Transparency

Publish full minutes (or transcripts if available), audio recordings, and voting records from all local council meetings. Online publication should be performed within 24 hours. Software tools will be created to make this process simple.

Publish full minutes (or transcripts if available), audio recordings, and voting records from all local council meetings. Online publication should be performed within 30 minutes. Software tools will be created to make this process simple.

tmtmtmtm

@tmtmtmtm - about 6 years ago

Rather than allowing 24 hours for publishing of minutes/voting records etc., mandate that they should be published within 30 minutes. Changing to effectively real-time release is not only better for interested observers, but places the responsibility for doing it all with the meeting itself, rather than a separate function that happens later and can be thought about separately. This has precedent in Estonia.

PaulJRobinson

@PaulJRobinson - about 6 years ago

Ok, I think at least 2 hours would be a little fairer rather than rushing something shoddy out into the public domain. In principle I would agree with this proposal. Is there any flexibility on the time limit?

Floppy

@Floppy - about 6 years ago

I think the idea is that the decent version is agreed as part of the meeting, which with good software tools and connectivity is perfectly possible.

tmtmtmtm

@tmtmtmtm - about 6 years ago

@floppy: yes. The 30 minute number is pretty much arbitrary, mainly to allow for various glitches with uploading etc., but the principle is that it should happen in as close to real time as possible. In Estonia decisions, even at Cabinet level, are published as they happen mid-meeting, as a by-product of the voting/note-taking software, rather than something that needs to explicitly happen later. (Items can be pre-marked as Confidential so that that doesn't happen, but there are very specific rules around that too.)

If there are particular meeting artifacts that can't usually be created in real time, then I'd certainly allow time for those, but attendance records, minutes of decisions, voting records etc., can usually be published instantaneously.

PaulJRobinson

@PaulJRobinson - about 6 years ago

ok 👍

*Paul *

about.me/pauljrobinson http://about.me/pauljrobinson

On 7 October 2014 13:36, Tony Bowden [email protected] wrote:

@floppy https://github.com/floppy: yes. The 30 minute number is pretty much arbitrary, mainly to allow to various glitches with uploading etc., but the principle is that it should happen in as close to real time as possible. In Estonia decisions, even at Cabinet level, are published as they happen mid-meeting, as a by-product of the voting/note-taking software, rather than something that needs to explicitly happen later. (Items can be pre-marked as Confidential so that that doesn't happen, but there are very specific rules around that too.)

If there are particular meeting artifacts that can't usually be created in real time, then I'd certainly allow time for those, but attendance records, minutes of decisions, voting records etc., can usually be published instantaneously.

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub https://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/229#issuecomment-58177133 .

philipjohn

@philipjohn - about 6 years ago

I'm worried this unfairly impacts on officers without providing any significant additional benefit to citizens. 24 hours is a completely reasonable time frame. All changing that to 30 minutes would do, as far as I see, is make council officers who have already given up an evening with their family/friends stay even later to rush out the record of the meeting that bit quicker. That's not very fair on them, in my opinion. Of course, an additional time after the meeting is also an additional salary cost, whereas releasing everything the following day means the work is done within normal working hours, not overtime hours.

tmtmtmtm

@tmtmtmtm - about 6 years ago

The idea is that in the vast majority of cases it shouldn't take any extra time — everything will published during the meeting itself. With the right technology, the publishing of the the votes/minutes/etc should flow automatically from the recording of them, and not require any extra work whatsoever from officers — whether after the meeting, or the next day.

philipjohn

@philipjohn - about 6 years ago

Yep, I get that, I just don't think requiring 30 minute turnarounds makes things better, it just puts more pressure on officers and increase costs. 24 hours is already reasonable.

On Sat, Oct 11, 2014 at 2:39 PM, Tony Bowden [email protected] wrote:

The idea is that in the vast majority of cases it shouldn't take any extra time -- everything will published during the meeting itself. With the right technology, the publishing of the the votes/minutes/etc should flow automatically from the recording of them, and not require any extra work whatsoever from officers -- whether after the meeting, or the next day.

Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub https://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/229#issuecomment-58749862 .

tmtmtmtm

@tmtmtmtm - about 6 years ago

I'm not seeing how; if anything I would say the opposite. If you make it 24 hours, then people will be much more inclined to actually use that time, and do the work the next day (at greater expense). Giving 30 minutes squarely places the work into the meeting itself, and suitable use of technology should significantly shorten most meetings, not length them.

However, I think that costs are largely a red herring here, and fear that I'm missing something quite fundamental about your concern.

So let's come at this from a slightly different angle, and ignore the publication angle for a second. Regardless of things like publication schedules, it's still better practice to agree minutes at a meeting anyway, rather that afterwards. If there are any misunderstandings, or issues with the minutes, it's much, much better to discover and resolve them at the time, rather than later. (Plus it eliminates the desire for someone to try to make the minutes make what they wish had happened, rather than what actually did, or Yes Minister-esque scenarios)

In a pre-tech world this was quite tricky and time-consuming, but these days it's fairly simple. This doesn't require collaborative editing and all that: even with a single minute-taker, you can simply project the minutes as you go, and have anyone able to raise issues about them in real time.

But, if you can do that, then publishing them in real-time is also fairly trivial, at pretty much zero extra cost. Any process in-between the official decision and the official publication simply increases

[And from a slightly different angle again: regardless of whether this is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, I would claim that's becoming a Necessary Thing. Other than in exceptional circumstances meetings should be open to the public anyway, and increasingly people will be tweeting, or otherwise publicising what happened anyway, so it's better to get the official version out as soon as possible.]

philipjohn

@philipjohn - about 6 years ago

"do the work the next day (at greater expense)" How would doing the work the next day be a greater cost?

Based on a council meeting starting at 6pm and ending at 8pm, the two different scenarios are;

Current: an officer who is present at the meeting, finishes at 8pm and goes home. The two hours they've spent at the meeting will either invite overtime pay (as normal) or time in lieu (a similar cost to the organisation). Next day, that officer, during normal working hours (and therefore at no extra cost) will process the meeting and publish everything within the 24 hour time period. Result: no extra cost to the organisation but citizens get the meeting minutes etc within 24 hours.

Proposed: the officer has to stay an extra 30 minutes-ish to get everything published. Result: An extra 30 minutes either of overtime pay or time in lieu (an additional cost to the organisation) and citizens get the same info a bit earlier.

My local council has 6 meetings next month. Annualise that and you're facing an extra 36 person hours per year to over the existing proposal.

What's the benefit? Under the current wording, citizens get to see everything within 24 hours. That is a completely reasonable amount of time to wait. Mandating that to 30 minutes provides very little difference. I find it unlikely whether anyone will give two hoots whether it's 30 minutes or 24 hours.

Technology Yes, technology makes it possible to get everything out immediately, and those authorities that use that technology to do so (I would presume they'd be encouraged to) will be able to get everything out that quick. It will be good when they do. However, if they don't do it until the next day, nobody has lost out.

There is nothing wrong with the current wording, and as such the proposal does not create any additional benefit. On the contrary, as I've shown, it could well create an additional and unnecessary cost. For that simple reason I'm a big 👎 on this.

Just finally to address this point:

This doesn't require collaborative editing and all that: even with a single minute-taker, you can simply project the minutes as you go, and have anyone able to raise issues about them in real time.

That's completely infeasible - you simply can't expect members to listen and understand, sometimes quite complex, reports from officers, discuss those and make decisions whilst simultaneously reading an instant regurgitation of what's been said and scrutinise that too.

tmtmtmtm

@tmtmtmtm - about 6 years ago

I'm not following those costs. In the vast majority of cases the minutes are published in real time, with zero extra time after the meeting, That means the time the next day doesn't need to be spent at all. (Your argument seems to imply that there is no cost involved in an employee's time, which is rather odd.) I'll reiterate: the 30 minutes is only there as a buffer zone in case something goes wrong technically.

But if the cost of those 30 minutes is really your hang-up then I'm perfectly willing to change the "within 30 minutes" to "within 30 seconds" (tongue only slightly in cheek).

I find it unlikely whether anyone will give two hoots whether it's 30 minutes or 24 hours.

Really? Why so? I would say exactly the opposite — unless the council isn't doing anything that people would care about… Not publishing for 24 hours doesn't only remove you from the insta-news online cycle, it puts you significantly behind even paper-based press.

That's completely infeasible

I'm not describing something imaginary here. Estonia has been doing this for a very long time.

Here's a BBC news article about it from over 10 years ago: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3690661.stm

(The systems have gotten better since then, but I'm not finding much in English about it on a quick search, and I'm heading out now. I'll try again later)

philipjohn

@philipjohn - about 6 years ago

In the vast majority of cases the minutes are published in real time

You are assuming technology that is not in place now and is unlikely to be in place any time soon, unless you're advocating micro-managing how councils record meetings?

Your argument seems to imply that there is no cost involved in an employee's time

I couldn't have been clearer in stating the opposite.

Here's a BBC news article about it from over 10 years ago

That article says nothing about minutes being shown to the meeting as it happens, which was your original point.

I have personally campaigned for authorities to be more open about meetings, encouraging them to use video and audo and livestreaming. I have even been invited, by councillors, to their meetings to present to them about why they should be doing it. Central government certainly should also be encouraging (as the current government does) local authorities to use technology to open up their meetings

This proposal however does absolutely nothing to further that aim. As currently worded, this policy says to local authorites "you should publish everything as soon as you can, and even with relatively outdated tech you should have no problem getting stuff out in 24 hours". The proposed wording changes this to "get it out NOW, or else."

For some authorities, who are using outdated tech (many are) this may prove challenging, and instead of beating them with the 30 minute stick we should give them a reasonable amount of time to get stuff out there.

I'll repeat: there is nothing wrong with the current wording, and so the proposal solves no problem but could create additional costs, and should be rejected on that basis.

tmtmtmtm

@tmtmtmtm - about 6 years ago

You are assuming technology that is not in place now and is unlikely to be in place any time soon

I'm working from the proposal as it currently stands, which already said "Software tools will be created to make this process simple."

I couldn't have been clearer in stating the opposite.

OK, sorry. I misread "Next day, that officer, during normal working hours (and therefore at no extra cost)". [I've had too many weird conversations with people who do seem to act as if it's the case that once you're already employing someone, anything they do during normal working hours has effectively no cost.] But in that case my point is that if this doesn't need to be done the next day, then there is a saving, and that time the next day is freed up for them to do something else. But focusing solely on the costs of the minute-taker, and in particular only on their costs over those two days, doesn't reflect the wider picture adequately either. Even ignoring any other benefits from running things more efficiently, this also saves time at the following meeting — which would certainly be minimal in cases where's no issue in accepting previous minutes, but can be significant in cases where there's any kind of dispute.

That article says nothing about minutes being shown to the meeting as it happens, which was your original point.

On a very precise reading of it, then sure. Technically they're only paying attention there to the agenda on the big screen, and the minutes on their own small screen. But even though I disagree with your claim that people aren't capable of making sure in real time that a recorded minute agrees with their understanding of what just happened, I'm not really sure I follow the wider context for it anyway. Even if were true that most attendees couldn't do this, then that'd still be no worse than the current proposal — unless you're expecting every attendee to individually scrutinise the published-in-24-hour version of the minutes next day? (I'm not sure if you are.) But for this sort of real-time system, you only need one person at the meeting to notice that something is off, for it to be valuable.

For some authorities, who are using outdated tech (many are) this may prove challenging

Sure, but the proposal as it currently stands already says we're going to provide them with new tech, and my proposal is completely predicated on that. I'm certainly not proposing that everyone should be forced to do this with the tech they already have. If we didn't have that second half, I'd even be hesitant about a 24-hour requirement.

the proposal solves no problem but could create additional costs

I disagree with both halves of this. The Estonian experience has been that it actually saves cost, and brings significant benefits. But I'd like to hear more on why you think there's no value in real-time publishing. Maybe it's a peculiarity of the places I've lived, but it's very common for the press to publish stories about Council meetings — historically that was only in the next morning's paper, but of course these days the stories often appear online the same night. And, yes, I expect that I'm somewhat of an oddity in that I like to be able to go and compare the press version with the official documents, but I do think that at least giving people the ability to do that — at the time that they're reading the story, not 24 hours later — is a good thing.

philipjohn

@philipjohn - about 6 years ago

that time the next day is freed up for them to do something else

That time will have to be spent either way. What I've demonstrated is they either a) spend that time after the meeting, at a cost to the organisation or b) do it the next day within normal working hours (as they do at the moment). 'A' would therefore be an increase in cost on what happens in authorities right now, and over the existing wording of this policy.

On a very precise reading of it, then sure. Technically they're only paying attention there to the agenda on the big screen, and the minutes on their own small screen.

I see nothing backing that up though. If that's the case, and that's your argument you need to back it up with some solid evidence.

Even if were true that most attendees couldn't do this, then that'd still be no worse than the current proposal — unless you're expecting every attendee to individually scrutinise the published-in-24-hour version of the minutes next day?

Why do all the members need to scrutinise the minutes? Does that happen at the moment?

Sure, but the proposal as it currently stands already says we're going to provide them with new tech, and my proposal is completely predicated on that.

It does, but we can't assume that new technology will magically appear in 864 local authorities overnight and just work. Note also that the proposal only mentions software - local authorities will still have to arrange for the necessary hardware for audio/video/transcripts (some already have this). It also doesn't say we're forcing that software on authorities, who should retain their autonomy and freedom to arrange to meet the requirement on their own terms, as fits with our principles.

24 hours is ample time for meeting recordings/minutes to make it online whilst retaining the freedom of local authorities to chose how they meet their obligations. In a lot of cases, authorities will chose to live stream, making the time requirement larger irrelevant. Many more will struggle to do anything more than a PDF of minutes for a long while, but they will be able to do 24 hours and they'll get the help - not micro-management - of central government to do better.

Estonian experience has been that it actually saves cost

You need to back that up with evidence. I've provided clear figures that show a potential increase in cost based on logical reasoning. If you have evidence that contradicts it, you need to show it in support of your argument.

historically that was only in the next morning's paper

I think you give local papers far too much credit ;) One reason for the rise of hyperlocal news is because the local media weren't reporting on council meetings. I have been at many council meetings as a hyperlocal reporter many times and never seen a 'traditional' media journalist. Our hyperlocal always reports those meetings before the local paper, and the minutes take days to appear online.

Why is 24 hours not good enough? What is the additional societal benefit of making it 30 minutes? - that question has still not been answered yet.

tmtmtmtm

@tmtmtmtm - about 6 years ago

Why is 24 hours not good enough? What is the additional societal benefit of making it 30 minutes? - that question has still not been answered yet.

I think I've answered it several times, but obviously we're talking past each other, so for now I'll bow out and continue to live happily in the future that you believe is impossible and/or valueless. If you feel so strongly that this is such a bad idea, I don't feel strongly enough to keep pushing for it.

Floppy

@Floppy - about 6 years ago

I'm going to answer the above comments in detail when I have time to read and do them justice, but I'm on the 👍 side here, because this moves us towards a realtime system of reporting decisions as they are taken, which as @tmtmtmtm states works very nicely elsewhere in the world. This is the future of transparency, I think. Anyway, I'll come back with more later.

tmtmtmtm

@tmtmtmtm - about 6 years ago

One other thing that struck me reading back through this this evening is that it might be worth separating out the different concepts here, as I think some of the discussion has been conflating them in unhelpful ways, and because what is desirable / necessary / sensible / possible for each will almost certainly be different.

I'm sure there are things missing from this, but as a first pass: - Agenda - Reports / Papers (generally prepared/circulated in advance) - Attendance record - Decisions - Votes - Minutes - Live Audio - Live Video - Audio archive - Video archive - Transcripts