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Posted by: John Brace | 4th March 2015

Why are Wirral councillors trying to kill off press freedom by a new public meetings filming ban?

Why are Wirral councillors trying to kill off press freedom by a new public meetings filming ban?

                                              

Video of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee from 3rd March 2015, the item on filming starts 43 seconds into the meeting

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer at Wirral Council) gives councillors his opinion at the meeting that he doesn't think the draft policy banning filming breaches the Human Rights Act 1998 3rd March 2015

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer at Wirral Council) gives councillors his opinion at the meeting that he doesn’t think the draft policy banning filming breaches the Human Rights Act 1998 3rd March 2015

Last year I wrote a piece on this blog headlined The day democracy and freedom of the press died at Wirral Council: 28th October 2014 and earlier this week published my email to councillors on the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee detailing my concerns about a proposed policy banning filming at public meetings of Wirral Council.

Last night councillors (as you can see from the video above) on Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee agreed to bash the final nail in the coffin of press freedom to report on public meetings of Wirral Council and recommended to all councillors at the next Council meeting on the 16th of March that press freedom remain dead and buried (that is they recommended a draft policy on the reporting of all public meetings of Wirral Council).

Around the time a new law (the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014) came into force last August, which prevented local councils stopping filming of their meetings, Eric Pickles was quoted as saying "How can we criticise Putin’s Russia for suppressing freedom of the press when, up and down the land, police are threatening to arrest people for reporting a council meeting with digital media?"

Labour councillors on the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee last night repeatedly prevented any discussion by opposition councillors on the controversial subjects of the closure of Lyndale School and library opening hours. If councillors from the ruling group can’t respect and listen to viewpoints they may not agree with, how can democracy actually function at all on Wirral Council?

Despite concerns I expressed at the meeting itself about the lack of consultation and concerns over whether the draft policy breached both section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 (in respect of Article 10 on freedom of expression) and Regulation 4 of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, councillors agreed to recommend it to the next Council meeting.

The draft policy (if approved by Council) will mean that at the start of the meeting the Chair will ask anyone if they have any objections to the meeting being filmed. If someone does object the Chair will stop the meeting being filmed. However any legal powers Chairs may have had to stop filming of public meetings were repealed by the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 last year.

The policy goes much further and states a ban on editing filming, photography or recording of a meeting that could cause “reputational harm”.

Wirral Council seem to not recognise the importance of the independence of the press and councillors on the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee don’t seem to think there is anything wrong with this policy.

If you’re from the Wirral and would like to make your views known to your local councillors ahead of the Council meeting on the 16th March, their contact details are on this page. As emails to councillors are no routinely filtered, I would suggest phoning or writing by mail.

If you’re have a WordPress blog, please feel free to reblog this post. If you’d like to write about the draft policy it is on Wirral Council’s website and the other papers and reports for the meeting can be found on Wirral Council’s website here. The code to embed the Youtube video of the meeting can be found by visiting Youtube and clicking on share then embed.

You can also give your opinion whether you think this policy is a good idea or not in the poll below:

[polldaddy poll=8699332]

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Responses

  1. I see the nicotine stained hand of a certain press officer at work here!

    • Generally press offices tend to be staffed by people that used to work in the press so I doubt such a plan would be hatched there.

      No, I think certain backbench Labour councillors aren’t happy with meetings being filmed so have pushed officers into trying to come up with ways to stop it or curtail it.

      I’m dismayed though that the opposition parties haven’t opposed it, but considering how they’re being treated by the Labour councillors at the moment I’m not surprised that they don’t want to set themselves up for another round of bullying.

  2. Mr Brace, This is ” Inchoate ” as opposed to ” In Kuwait ” Stained Hand or Not, but it is a good Analogy, call in the Administration!!!!

  3. G’day John

    With votes like Lyndale why would these scumbags want their ugly mugs shown anywhere amongst a decent population?

    They should hang their heads in shame and cower behind “Phil the Dill” and his boss “The Dunny Chain Wearer”.

    Why would these lyers like “The Football Shit” and “He who can talk for twenty minutes without breathing or saying anything” want their lies filmed for posterity?

    Why would “The Pretend Friend” want to be seen sleeping in the Chamber?

    Go get them “Tarrantino”.

    Ooroo

    James

    Ps There main problem for the likes of “The Shyster” and “Phil the Dill” is there concern of looking like a mudguard…shiny on top and shit underneath.

  4. Mr Brace and Mr Griffiths, each of you is right in your blogs, however, it is not “Equitable” to state those you think are opposed to Filming. Remember the Legal Maxim (Analogy) “Those who come to Equity Must Come With Clean Hands”

    • Anyone who wasn’t opposed to filming wouldn’t have recommended a policy preventing it. They’d have stated their opposition and voted against.

      If you watch the video apart from Surjit Tour agreeing with some of what I had to say, I think the only person who spoke at that meeting who wasn’t opposed to it in some form or another was myself.

      That’s my opinion anyway which I think is borne out by not just what was said but the way it was said and the body language used.

      Personally I would have preferred to read out my whole email, but as it was eight pages long I doubt that would have been possible in five minutes.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1w7tDM7LqQ#t=0m43s

  5. Mr Brace, see my first reply to your blog in relation to this matter, I would not dream of Laughing or being smug with you or Mr G. Who is this a matter for ” Challenging Government Statute or Regulations ” Look at it as though you yourself were being stifled or played, why?/who? is doing it, then decide who and why this behaviour should be Challenged and by Whom?. No Matter who is on the Council or no matter how long they have been there, they cannot change the Law

    • If Wirral Council break the law, it’s then a matter as to whether anyone wishes to bring a case before for the courts to independently decide as Wirral Council are not above the law (however deep their pockets may be for legal advice and representation).

      If I sound a bit stifled on the video compared to others speaking, then where I was speaking from didn’t have a microphone.

      Actually Wirral Council can decide on bye-laws, they recently decided on some for tattooing, acupuncture and piercing which can be be read here.

  6. Let them break the law.

    Let them make fools of themselves (again).

    But keep the moral highground and keep opposing.

    Great work John, in getting it all out there. Keep showing the world at large that democracy needs to be fought for, despite the actions of crooked miniature-despots, defending their empire and sounding off.

    I think it will all blow over and they’ll be held up for more deserved ridicule here, on Wirral Leaks and hopefully again in Private Eye – so a large, intelligent audience gets the chance to see how backward, immature and damnfool stupid our elected crooks can be.

    • I think the video footage of the Liverpool City Council shows how important it is not to put decisions about filming meetings in the hands of councillors.

      Democracy isn’t just about voting once a year, it’s about keeping an eye as to what politicians are up to all year round. The independent press in the UK is essential is a modern democracy to act as a watchdog and counter the spin of politicians and political parties.

  7. Mr C, I can see your take or point of view on this matter and I agree with most of what has been said in various blogs by yourself. However I have always taken the view, prevention is better than cure (purely my view),

    However, there are a number of views that can be taken. Making Fools of themselves is not one of them, that does not get the baby a new hat so to speak or food in its belly.

  8. Mr Brace, A Bye Law; is a form of Delegated Legislation made by local authorities for the good rule and government of their area. This power is conferred by an act of parliament.

    Delegated Legislation or Secondary, can be challenged via Judicial Review, (A court procedure used by any citizen to challenge the council/authority has not operated beyond its powers).

    There are other forms of Law and they run side by side, I think that is why there are a number of Courts Jurisdictions ,Parliamentary Committee’s looking at Local Constitutions, UK Constitutions, etc.

  9. What we need then is simply to have fifty of us turn up all with cameras and start filming at the next meeting. 16th March is too soon for me to be there (prior engagements), but I’m up for any meeing that might be taking place in April.
    Any one else fancy having a go?


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