Councils must allow filming of meetings

Given our concerns that the Joint Local Authority Group (JLAG) have been so reluctant to disclose their proceedings and to enable access for those of us with a different view of Sizewell C, it was interesting to note this recent item in the Times newspaper. It has been extremely difficult to obtain copies of the JLAG minutes and yet the communities secretary Eric Pickles clearly states that not only should members of the public have access to public documents but that council meetings should be filmed. Mr Pickles disputed that this would be in breach of data protection laws.

The Times report is reproduced below:

Councils must allow filmingĀ  of meetings

Bloggers, journalists and members of the public must be allowed to tweet, film and report on council meetings, according to Eric Pickles.

The Communities Secretary said that many councils were refusing to implement laws .that came in last year, which also allowmembers of the public to obtain council documents. Launching a new guide on filming council meetings, Mr Pickles disputed misconceptions that this could breach data protection or health and safety laws. He also challenged the Welsh Assembly to implement the new rules, which do not apply in the Principality. One blogger has been-arrested and handcuffed by police for filming a council meeting in Carmarthenshire. Wrexham council also banned a journalist
from the Daily Post from tweeting a council meeting.
“I want to stand up for the rights of journalists and taxpayers to scrutinise and challenge decisions of the state,”
said Mr Pickles. “Data protection rules or health and safety should not be used to suppress reporting.”
He added: “Councillors shouldn’t be shy about the public seeing the good work they do in championing local
communities and local interests. I challenge the Welsh Government to give taxpayers in Wales the same rights as
those in England now have, and stop the scandal of free speech being suppressed in Wales’s town halls.”
The guidance claims filming should be overt, people should be informed at the start of the meeting and councils should have a clear policy on whether members of the public should have the right to opt out of being filmed if they
ask questions.

Jill Sherman Whitehall Editor, The Times June 14 2013