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In extraordinary scenes tonight, Labour councillors at Wirral Council (where else?) chose to ban filming during a public meeting of the Pension Committee. The Pension Committee has eleven Wirral Council councillors on it, along with a councillor from each other Merseyside local authority and a trade union representative. Wirral Council are the administering authority for the £4.7 billion Merseyside Pension Fund, which at its last valuation had a £1.3 billion deficit. Quite what are the real reasons behind this move we’re not entirely sure, although it makes the public wonder what they’ve got to hide (agenda and reports on Wirral Council’s website here)?
I quote from this letter from their previous Director of Law, Bill Norman dated 22nd July 2011 “Finally, I can confirm that, since Monday 28 February 2011, blogging, Tweeting and the use of video cameras have all been permitted during meetings of the Council. Indeed, a number of people were using some of these technologies in the meeting on 1 March. Wirral Council was the first local authority in Merseyside to respond to the request by the Government to take this step to allow greater public scrutiny of meetings and decisions.”
The below was also agreed as Wirral Council policy (agreed unanimously on 12th December 2011),
(2) Reaffirms its commitment, made last year by the previous Conservative Liberal Democrat administration, to ensure that any member of the public who wishes to film or broadcast from a public Council meeting is encouraged to do so.
However since taking over in May, some Labour councillors seem determined to make decisions that ride roughshod over agreed policy or decisions they don’t agree with (such as the Budget for 2012/2013 agreed by the former Conservative/Lib Dem administration). Certainly the last time the former Chair of the Planning Committee, Cllr David Elderton tried this just over a year ago, there was a U-turn within a few days.
It’ll be interesting to see (pun intended) what happens next.
4 thoughts on “Labour ban filming at public meeting of Wirral Council’s Pensions Committee”
♪ Welcome my son, welcome to the machinations ♫
On the subject of transparency, Carmarthenshire Council has spent 18 months deciding whether to film their own meetings, finally decided on a pilot to record, censor, then upload full council meetings only. But not until they’ve thought about it a bit more. A cross party group accepted an amendment to allow the public to film/record, this went to the cabinet yesterday, who threw it out.
It sounds very similar to what happened at Wirral Council. Their “Member Equipment Steering Group” considered streaming video (and audio) of public meetings at Wirral Council and an officer (the Head of IT) made a verbal report on it (including estimated costs) to Monday’s Standards Committee on the options. Neighbouring Chester West and Chester webcast their public meetings and have done for some time.
Not unsurprisingly it was rejected at Monday’s Standards Committee (same day as the Cabinet meeting you refer to) as costing too much (and for other reasons).
At the moment there’s a public consultation on which £39 million of the £49 million of “budget options” they’ll chose to cut. As part of that their aim is to “spend less on ourselves”. At least one councillor stated that there weren’t enough people interested in watching them for it to warrant the cost, which when you consider that this clip of a Cabinet meeting from two weeks ago has had over two hundred views since is clearly not always the case.
As to the public filming meetings, it seems the desire to ban it has come from certain Labour Cabinet Member/s.
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