Wirral Council’s Pensions Committee bans filming and public from public meeting on “health and safety grounds”

Wirral Council bans public from filming Pensions Committee on “health and safety” grounds.

Wirral Council bans filming and public from public meeting Bizarrely at the start of the Pension Committee all members of the public were asked to leave by the Chair (who seemed to conveniently forget that the public have a legal right to be there).

What followed was twenty minutes of discussion as to whether to allow filming at the meeting. Quite exactly what took place during that twenty minutes, I can only report based on the snippets heard as Cllr Harry Smith’s voice reverberated through the closed-door as he told the Committee how “upsetting” he found filming. Getting into his stride he used one of his favourite words “political” not just once but multiple times and said it should be banned because I was a member of a political party (untrue). He said he had no issue with anyone else filming who was “non-political” but then tried to say I am a member of the Liberal Democrats (which I’m not), then contradicting himself in the same sentence by referring to me as an independent. As Peter Cook put it once, “You may choose if you wish to believe a transparent tissue of odious lies, that streamed on and on ….. that is entirely a matter for you.”

When it was pointed out by another councillor that this was irrelevant to the issue of filming the meeting, Cllr Harry Smith just looked even more irate, seemingly unused to any councillor (or in fact anybody) having the temerity to tell him he was being irrelevant.

When the public returned Cllr Ann McLachlan read out a recommendation that at least from where I was sitting couldn’t be heard. Another councillor then tabled an amendment to “current Committee meeting” as it was subject to a review. Cllr Adrian Jones asked him to repeat what he’d said as he hadn’t heard it. He repeated it, Cllr George Davies shouted “current” at Cllr Adrian Jones followed by the Chair saying “at the moment”.

Despite separate votes being required for the amendment and resolution only one vote was taken, 8:5 on the amended resolution.

The Chair, Cllr Patricia Glasman then said, “So the resolution is carried, OK, so ladies and gentlemen, Mr and Mrs Brace, you may not film this meeting tonight on the basis that your equipment has not been…, it does actually say that you would have to have a health and safety agreement to use your equipment and that that’s because of errm a review, which is currently Council is looking into the issue of filming.”

John Brace, “Would it be ok if I filmed without the tripod, is that the issue?”

Chair, Cllr Patricia Glasman, “Errm, well the tripod is one of the issues, but no, we’ve had a resolution, asking you not to film the meeting.”

John Brace, “Can I have a copy of the resolution if possible?”

Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee 14th January 2012 Part 1

Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee 14th January 2012 Part 1 Labour councillors vote to ban filming again

Well, the Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee started with the Chair starting a discussion by the Committee over whether they should allow filming.

The Chair started speaking but the proceedings were interrupted by a serial heckler going by the name of Cllr Harry Smith (Labour), who after walking twice in both directions in front of the camera loudly shouted “Chuck them out” before storming out himself. The doors slammed loudly behind him, while an atmosphere of calm returned to the meeting with the Chair temporarily lost for words at Cllr Smith’s interruption.

Ironically, the meeting wasn’t being filmed while this was taking place, but for a rundown along with links to the Youtube videos of the three times this previously happened you can read Paul Cardin’s blog as each time is broadly similar with Labour councillors moaning about it the filming they thought was taking place (but wasn’t).

I also notice from Paul Cardin’s blog that one of those voting against filming at this Health and Wellbeing meeting (Cllr Bernie Moonie) was quoted at the last meeting as saying “just for this meeting”.

So who voted for and who voted against?

Against filming 4
Cllr Bernie Mooney (Labour)
Cllr Tony Norbury (Labour)
Cllr Denise Roberts (Labour)
Cllr Anita Leech (Labour)

For filming 4
Cllr Alan Brighouse (Lib Dem)
Cllr Eddie Boult (Conservative)
Cllr Mike Hornby (Conservative)
Brian Donaldson (Carer’s representative)

The Chair (Cllr Simon Mountney, Conservative) having abstained on the vote then decided to use his vote to vote with the Labour councillors.

During the discussion Cllr Bernie Mooney referred to the previous Planning Committee and how in her view there was no policy on the filming of meetings.

Cllr Mooney must have completely forgotten about voting for the Council policy entitled “Lights, Camera, Action” in December 2011, that the Standards Committee of 26th January 2011 resolved that “in the interests of openness and transparency it was decided that no further restrictions would be placed on the use of recording media in Council buildings.”.

As a footnote to the above at the last Council meeting, instead of settling the matter at the end of last year, Labour councillors insisted on calling for a review of filming meetings to the Licensing, Health and Safety and General Purposes Committee which next meets on 23rd January 2012, but sadly the Licensing, Health and Safety and General Purposes Committee’s agenda (all five items of it!) doesn’t include this review.

Personally I think the “review” is a “red herring” and as the next Licensing, Health and Safety and General Purposes Committee after the one on the 23rd January is the 20th March, I have little option but to follow through on my letter of the 19th December 2012 and file for judicial review at the Administrative Court (High Courts of Justice) of Wirral Council’s decisions.

Planning Committee (Wirral Council) bans filming again

Labour ban filming again at Planning Committee (Wirral Council) 18th December 2012

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Planning Committee bans filming again on 6:5 vote.

Cllr Bernie Mooney (Chair)
Cllr Eddie Boult
Cllr Stuart Kelly
Cllr Brian Kenny
Cllr Denise Realey
Cllr Joe Walsh
Cllr Paul Hayes
Cllr Steve Foulkes
Cllr David Elderton

Planning Committee started late, due to a discussion between myself and Surjit Tour about whether to film the meeting. He tried to persuade me not to. Needless to say I didn’t agree and stuck to the NUJ Code of Conduct which states “At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed”. The following notice of motion (agreed the evening before) was given as the rationale as to why the Planning Committee meeting of the 18th December 2012 should censor any filming. Personally I believe this breaches my article 10 rights on Freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Despite the notice of motion (below) stating the complete opposite to what was agreed at Planning Committee, councillors refused to even bring up the notice of motion on the screen and read it before voting.

Proposed by Councillor Bill Davies
Seconded by Councillor Moira McLaughlin

Delete everything and replace with the following:

(1) Council notes that the Administration has not banned the public from being able to attend and film at meetings.

(2) The issue of filming is under review. The Acting Director of Law, Human Resources & Asset Management has been asked to look at how a balance can be struck between maintaining openness and transparency and addressing concerns among some members about what safeguards can be put in place on how video recordings might be used.

(3) Council notes that the wider issue of the Council streaming its committee meetings is being considered by the cross-party members Equipment Steering Group.

(4) Council asks for the outcome of the review to be presented to the Licensing, Health and Safety and General Purposes Committee for detailed consideration.

I discussed this with a Labour councillor after the meeting. He said that one of his councillors had tried to film their grandchildren’s nativity play at a school and been stopped by school staff. This guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office entitled “Data Protection Good Practice Note Taking Photographs in Schools” shows this was incorrect.

The same councillor also stated that if he took a photo of me and put it on a website, he could be accused of bullying under the Members Code of Conduct. I really don’t mind if people take a photo of me though, I’m not as camera shy as the Labour councillors are! He then went on to state they have more important things to think about like the 2013/2014 Budget.