Monday, 28 July 2014

The filming of Council meetings

The Government’s new initiative of allowing the public to record, video or photograph council meetings comes in to force this week. I am a supporter of this move and have always believed that public council meetings should be made more accessible and that councillors should be publically accountable for what they say in such meetings. There have been too many occasions in the past where councillors have made some ridiculous contributions during the course of poorly attended public meetings but it has subsequently been impossible to make them acknowledge their position due to the lack of any formal record. I was delighted when SBC agreed to the webcasting of council meetings (notwithstanding the opposition of some members) as I do feel that this has made often important debates more easily accessible to residents as well as providing an important record of the contributions to the various debates. I hope that webcasting will be rolled out to the major scrutiny meetings and other important meetings such as Development Control. If we are going to try to interest and engage the public in local government easy access of this kind is hardly controversial. I would also expect that formal webcasting will remove the need for individual residents to use the new rules as they will already have access to an official and accurate broadcast of the entire debate and not a potentially selective extract. If local authorities will not follow the lead of more progressive authorities like Southend then at least the less satisfactory alternative being introduced will open up even the most reluctant councils to better and more public scrutiny.

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