HAMPSHIRE County Council is considering showing videos of meetings on its website in bid to boost local democracy.

The authority has previously barred reporters from filming or recording meetings under standing orders – the council’s rule book.

But county chiefs are proposing to install new equipment in the grade-two listed chamber that will allow it to video meetings for live broadcast on its website and record them for play back later. The idea is for webstreaming to start in January 2012.

The estimated cost to taxpayers is £223,000 over five years. This includes £199,000 to install audio and video equipment in the chamber plus a mobile kit for use in other meeting rooms.

The bill also includes the cost of an outside organisation filming meetings in 2012 with council officials possibly taking over in future years.

Currently, few members of the public, if any, attend meetings unless they are controversial.

Council leader Councillor Ken Thornber said: “If members of the public can view footage of parliamentary debates, they should be able to do the same with their local council meetings.

“As Hampshire is a large and mainly rural county, it’s not always easy for residents from all corners of Hampshire to attend these meetings and see for themselves how local members are representing their views and interests.

“What’s more, full council meetings take place during the day which can limit the number of people that may wish to attend.”

County chiefs say the current audio equipment in the chamber is in need of replacement and it is difficult to find replacement parts. A new digital system would keep local people more informed about the work of the council. Funding has been set aside for the scheme from the councillors’ budget.

However, Christine Melsom, Alton-based founder of IsItFair, the anti-council tax protest group, urged county chiefs to re-think.

She said: “I think it is a bad time to consider spending that sort of money at a time when the council is cutting services and jobs.

“I would like to know if the local authority has done any research on how many people are likely to watch the meetings on its website.”

Other local authorities already broadcast meetings include Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.