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Posted by: John Brace | 6th August 2014

Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 prevents councillors stopping filming at public meetings

Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 prevents councillors stopping filming at public meetings

                               

Today marks a change in the filming of public meetings of Wirral Council. Today is when the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 comes into effect. This new law (which only applies to England) prevents local councils stopping filming of their public meetings (which obviously is welcomed by myself and others up and down the country).

It doesn’t however just apply to local councils, but also to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, meetings of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (which includes Merseytravel) and joint committees such as the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel. The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Merseyside Police and Crime Panel have in the recent past refused requests from myself to film their public meetings (you can read here about the refusal by four councillors on the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel which happened back in April). The new law also applies to meetings of parish councils, although there aren’t any of these in Wirral there are in the rest of Merseyside.

However Wirral Council it seems is still clinging to the past. Here is a statement they gave to BBC Radio Merseyside which was read out this morning on the Tony Snell show:

“We are considering the practical implications of the legislation. Wirral Council’s meetings are regularly filmed by members of the public and journalists and residents live tweet and write blogs about proceedings. However we also need to consider the feelings of members of the public, who might be involved in proceedings and who may or may not wish to be filmed. We’re always keen to look at new ways of opening the democratic process to residents.”

The most recent example of Wirral Council stopping filming at a public meeting was exactly two months ago today at a Licensing 2003 subcommittee meeting to decide on an application for an alcohol licence for a shop in Moreton.

As to blogs, well it was about a month ago that Wirral Council made a threat of a libel lawsuit (which was withdrawn five minutes later) against this blog with regards to a comment somebody else had written.

August however is a quiet time for public meetings at Wirral Council. There is a public meeting of the Wallasey Constituency Committee Working Group tonight at 6pm in Committee Room 2 to discuss how they’ll spend £38,875 on improving road safety, £38,875 on promoting active travel and health and whether to spend £1,000 on marketing (leaflets about the Wallasey Constituency Committee and the Have Your Say meetings).

Tomorrow at 6pm (also at Wallasey Town Hall) is a meeting of the Coordinating Committee to discuss two call ins. The first call in is about a recent Cabinet decision over less generous concessions for current and former Armed Forces personnel at Wirral’s leisure centres and the second is about a recent Cabinet decision to remove funding for the Forest Schools program. However before a decision is reached on both matters the meeting will be adjourned. The one about Forest Schools will be adjourned until 6pm on Thursday 18th September and the one about leisure centres will be adjourned to Tuesday 23rd September at 6pm. The rest of the month of August (apart from a Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee meeting on the 27th August at 10am) there is only one other public meeting which is a Planning Committee meeting on Thursday 21st August at 6pm.

My next blog post today will be illustrating why filming is necessary to show that what politicians say at public meetings of Wirral Council and what Wirral Council states in their press releases isn’t always true

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Responses

  1. Wirrals attitude is similar to that of Josef Goebbels in Germany to influence public opinion. Or sticking their fingers in their ears and singing ‘La la la I’m not listening’!

    • I’m glad I am not doing what I’m doing in 1930s Germany as if I was I reckon I’d have had to have fled the country by now!

      People’s public opinion of Wirral Council is shaped by their personal experiences of dealing with it, if Wirral Council is at odds with the general feeling of the population it serves, than that shows there’s something that’s gone terribly wrong with local democracy.

  2. John I take my hat off to you & your good lady, the both of you in no small helped to get this legislation onto the statute book so well done.
    let us see who the clown hall will get the point in due course in the meantime my hats is still raised.

    • Well I think it was mostly the dramatic tales from other parts of the country. Despite this legislation now in effect and the resultant publicity about it in the press, I’m sure at least one or more public body in the country will either exclude the press and public from a public meeting in order to prevent reporting of politically sensitive or embarrassing issues or just carry on regardless pretending the new legislation isn’t in effect and try to stop filming.

      Hopefully at Wirral Council such matters are now consigned to the past, although a Wirral Council officer recently stated that regulations about their Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee meetings on disruption could be used to prevent filming. So yes, despite the new regulations I’m sure politicians that don’t like being filmed will instruct officers to look into extremely creative interpretations of other regulations in an attempt to prevent it!

  3. […] on from yesterday’s story about a legal change meaning Wirral Council can’t prevent filming at its public meetings any more, the first meeting affected by this was a Working Group of the Wallasey Constituency […]


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