LOCAL Government Secretary Eric Pickles has told local councils including Thurrock that they “should allow the public filming of council meetings”.
The report comes as Thurrock Council has just published a report on its one year trial on audio-recording of meetings. In the report it states that the officers e-mailed all 49 councillors for feedback. Only ten replied.
In a new guide published this week by Mr Pickles’ office it states:
Can I film the meeting?
“Council meetings are public meetings. Elected representatives and council officers acting in the public sphere should expect to be held to account for their comments and votes in such meetings.
“The rules require councils to provide reasonable facilities for any member of the public to report on meetings. Councils should thus allow the filming of councillors and officers at meetings that are open to the public.
“The Data Protection Act does not prohibit such overt filming of public meetings. Councils may reasonably ask for the filming to be undertaken in such a way that it is not disruptive or distracting to the good order and conduct of the meeting. As a courtesy, attendees should be informed at the start of the meeting that it is being filmed; we recommend that those wanting to film liaise with council staff before the start of the meeting.
“The council should consider adopting a policy on the filming of members of the public speaking at a meeting, such as allowing those who actively object to being filmed not to be filmed, without undermining the broader transparency of the meeting.
Talking about the new information Eric Pickles said:
“I want to stand up for the rights of journalists and taxpayers to scrutinise and challenge decisions of the state. Data protection rules or health and safety should not be used to suppress reporting or a healthy dose of criticism.
Modern technology has created a new cadre of bloggers and hyper-local journalists, and councils should open their digital doors and not cling to analogue interpretations of council rules.
Councillors shouldn’t be shy about the public seeing the good work they do in championing local communities and local interests.”