Hi-tech first for councillor

Lytham councillor Mark Bamforth on his computer tablet
Lytham councillor Mark Bamforth on his computer tablet

A councillor who lost his seat because he was unable to attend meetings has made a ground-breaking first ‘virtual’ appearance at a council debate.

Mark Bamforth, who suffers from agoraphobia - fear of public places – was ousted from Fylde Council last year after failing to attend the requisite minimum one meeting in six months under Local Government Association rules.

But he stood again in the by-election for the seat and won convincingly, prompting the council to look again at ways he could take an active part in debates without actually being present.

After several tests by the council’s IT department, the breakthrough for Coun Bamforth came at a meeting of the Members Development Steering Group - and he was delighted with how it went.

“It was such a good feeling - and I look forward to being involved in other meetings in that way,” said Coun Bamforth, who took part in the meeting via video link from his iPad at his home in Warton Street, Lytham.

“The meeting lasted just over two hours and the quality of the link was excellent.

“A special thank you to Fylde’s director of resources Tracy Morrison and head of IT Simon Stott, who researched what kit would be best to serve our needs. I am really looking forward to the future and am grateful to everyone for their support.”

Fylde ICT Manager Simon Stott: “We are in the early stages of reviewing and testing a platform to enable audio and video conferencing facilities for both staff and members.

“Together we hope to fit this technology into our accommodation plans at the town hall.”

Coun Ed Nash, who chaired the meeting of the Members Development Steering Group, said: “It was good to have Mark involved. He was very enthusiastic and took a full part in the discussions and it was an important step forward for the council.”