Nothing to Hide
Thanet Council Scrutiny Chair “Public Welcome to Film my Meetings”
Following the regrettable incident on Thursday 18th April when a journalist was thrown of a meeting of Thanet District Council for trying to film the disgraceful behaviour of councillors, and following my own exclusion from the same meeting for taking photographs of the unacceptable events, I have been giving careful consideration as to how I will manage the meeting of Thanet Council’s Overview and Scrutiny and Panel on 23rd April.
I have decided that in line with Council rules to allow all accredited journalists to film proceeding of the OSP.
I interpret the term accredited journalist to include Citizen Journalists i.e. members of the public who wish to make and transmit video, sound or textual recordings of the meeting.
I will therefore allow anyone who advises me that they are citizen journalist to record the proceedings of Thanet Council’s OSP without obstruction.
This decision is in compliance with a letter sent to all Council Leaders and Chief Executives by Bob Neil, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Department for Communities and Local Government in February 2011 which states that in order to promote stronger local accountability the public should be “able to film and record in meetings without obstruction”.
Mr Neil’s letter also suggests that Thanet Council’s recent decision to throw myself and Christine Tongue out the Council meeting last week was wrong. He says that
“recent stories about people being ejected from council meetings for blogging, tweeting or filming … is at odds with the fundamentals of democracy and I want to encourage all councils to take a welcoming approach to those who want to bring local news stories to a wider audience”.
I am very surprised that the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council have never brought Mr Neil’s important letter to the attention of the Council. This is a very serious mistake on their part.
I am also extremely surprised that the forthcoming review of the Council’s Probity and Reputation following the gaoling of ex-Council Leader Sandy Ezekiel for misconduct in public office and the on-going problems with councillor behaviour at meetings, does not include any reference at all to the recording of public meetings. I wonder what the powers that be at Thanet Council have to hide?”
My decision to adopt a liberal and open approach to the recording of the OSP will I hope, be a step in the right direction, and I expect the Council to be supportive of my decision.
Good to see at least one councillor following Eric Pickles guidelines