All Council’s will have to allow filming, tweeting and recording at their meetings

On the 6th August, there will be a fundamental way a Council deals with those who wish to film, tweeting and record in all meetings that are open to the public. Until now, only primary authorities like Cornwall Council had to allow – blog HERE – the use of social media and filming at meetings. Cornwall Council has already embraced this – as blogged HERE – and if it suits you, you can film / record any of our public meetings. Cornwall Council also webcasts its Full Council, Cabinet and Strategic Planning meetings.

From the 6th August, the amendment of the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 will come into force where all ‘relevant local government bodies’ which includes town and parish council will have to allow filming, the use of social media and recording in all their meetings. The legislation includes any communication method, including the internet, to publish, post or otherwise share the results of the person’s reporting activities. The reporting  and dissemination may take place at the time of the meeting or occur after the meeting. 

The reason for the change is because of the Sec of State, Eric Pickles has the power under the:

Section 40 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 gives the Secretary of State power, by regulations, to make provision for allowing persons to film, photograph or make sound recordings of proceedings of meetings of certain local government bodies; for allowing those not present at meetings to see and hear the proceedings; and for allowing reporting and commentating on the proceedings

I really welcome this and believe Mr Pickles has made the right decision in this matter. It is a shame filming, recording and social media had to be made secondary legislation because council’s would not allow this. There have been many cases of people being ejected and even arrested because they wanted to record a meeting. This should never have happen in the first place, but now thankfully from the 6th August this will not happen again.

Further detail and the actual legal wording can be found HERE and HERE

So here’s a pat on-the-back for Mr Pickles for bring in this sensible and long-overdue change in the Law.

 

The Restriction of Information

I am a firm believer of ‘Open and Transparency’ in Local Government and have pushed at many doors to make the Council more open and therefore better understood by the people of Cornwall. I blogged a few days ago about an incident at Cornwall Council’s Cabinet where those not on the Cabinet were barred from seeing certain information. This information was in reference to Equal Pay Claims and the Monitoring Officer, who I have great respect for gave advice that because this information was so sensitive it could not be given to those outside the Cabinet.

Ok, I can completely understand his advice, but only to a point. Personally I do not want access to the complete report, as to be honest there is no need. What I should and have been pressing for is a ball park figure of the liabilities that Cornwall Council faces in a worst case scenario. The simple reason is if it is a large amount this could then have an effect on the budget and/or the services we provide. As a back-bencher this information is important and therefore should be provided.

So my best attempts using various bits of legislation have failed. I have though managed to get the answer that any money will be made available from the reserves. My worry is the possible settlement for equal pay claims could be rather large, or otherwise we would have been told.

This whole issue is frustrating not only because I believe we could be facing a rather large settlement, but for me once information has been restricted once, it is very easy to use it again. It is like the thin edge of the wedge.

Lastly, the most worrying aspect of it all is not just the money, but the fact of being an equal opportunity employer is finding itself being taken down this course of action in the first place.

Cabinet and the Rest

Today at Cornwall Council’s Cabinet something happened that I have never witnessed before. Namely confidential papers, also known as ‘Pink Papers’ were restricted to only Cabinet Members. Generally, Councillors have access to them, but they are not for the public.

This decision was met by stunned silence by those present, but even though back-benchers raised their hands to speak, the Leader refused to allow any to speak.

The rationale given by the Leader as to why these papers were restricted to only Cabinet Members was because the details were so sensitive. No other explanation was given as to why, or a simple statement explaining what was happening

If the Leader had done that, then most Councillors would have understood the reason. The way it was handled was bad and came across as them and us, and you back-benchers can’t be trusted. It is this last point that has irked Councillors.

I hope never to see this restriction of information again, but I won’t hold my breath.