PLANS to allow councillors in Monmouthshire to attend meetings remotely through the use of video conferencing have been described as being “a long way off”.

Members of the council’s democratic services committee met this week to discuss the practicality of members using Skype to take part in meetings they are unable to physically attend.

The local authority, along with its 21 counterparts across Wales, are being encouraged to offer such services by the Welsh Government.

It is claimed that the proposals could help make local government more accessible for members who may be unable to attend meetings due to “employment, travel or domestic reasons.”

Cllr Frances Taylor, member for Mill, spoke in support of the idea at the meeting on Monday, saying: “I think things have move don enormously in all other aspects but in terms of physically being present to contribute and vote that hasn’t moved on has it since the 19th century.”

John Pearson, the council’s local democracy manager, outlined in a report the complexities of putting such a system in place.

“The functionality to facilitate this is not yet available as a cost effective solution that can be embedded into the existing arrangements within the chamber,” he wrote.

“Whilst there are solutions such as skype which could be used they don’t address issues such as chairing the meeting and maintaining order, voting, multiple instances of remote attendees and the requirement to provide translation to those remote attendees who need it.”

At the meeting, Mr Pearson added: “There’s a reason why no one else is using remote attendance for meetings yet and it’s because it’s still a long way off I think.”

Cllr Giles Howard, member for Llanfoist Fawr, remained sceptical about the adoption of remote access, saying that a debate would be hard if “people aren’t really there.”

But Sian Hayward, head of digital services, said that the authority was leading the way in its use of technology and could eventually make it work.

“This is really early days but if you don’t start with small steps you’re never going to get to bigger steps,” she added.