Royal visit today changes time of Mersey Fire Authority meeting & leads to bungle on filming petition
Despite being the lead signatory on this petition which is on the agenda of today’s Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting I won’t be able to go to the meeting today to speak for five minutes on the petition and see what is said about it.
Usually meetings of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority start at 1.00pm and this had been down originally scheduled as starting at that time. However because a member of the Royal Family is coming to open the building today, the time of this meeting starting was changed in the very recent past at some point to 11.00am. Unfortunately the letter (see below) inviting me to the meeting didn’t mention the changed time (or indeed the time the meeting was supposed to start at all) and despite this being mentioned at least once at a recent public meeting of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority neither of us changed the original time was starting in our diary (1.00pm) when we got back or received formal notification of the changed time!
So I only realised the meeting was starting at 11.00am at around 11.00am this morning when I looked at MFRA’s website and was about to leave (for a meeting I thought started at 1.00pm) leaving no time to get there at all as by the time I get there it will be finished! So apologies to the petition signatories in that I won’t be able to speak for five minutes at today’s meeting or film it as originally planned!
So below is what I would have said if I had indeed been been more organised over the time of the meeting starting and got my five minutes to speak. As you can see here meetings of the Authority are normally at 1.00pm! Apologies for missing the altered time of the meeting, changed because a member of royalty is officially opening the building today.
“The petition (and accompanying letter) should be in people’s agenda packs at agenda item 3 (pages 7-8). In addition to the two on the paper petition included there, there are a further seven signatories on an online version of the same petition, however the lead signatory signed both versions making a total of eight individuals.
On the 18th November 2014 Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority published on its website as a library item a seven page document titled MFRA Meeting Reporting Protocol and Procedure. This didn’t formally go on the agenda of a public meeting of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority to be agreed but was published as a library item.
The issue of filming meetings was discussed at a meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee on the 23rd September 2014 (agenda item 6 The Openness in Local Government Regulations 2014). The minutes of that meeting state “The committee were advised that a report will be submitted to a future Authority meeting to approve amendments to the Authority’s Constitution following the impact of the Regulations.”, however there has not been a report to either the Authority meeting on October 2nd 2014 or today’s meeting to approve amending the constitution, which is what this petition calls for in asking for standing order 19.4 to be deleted.
Standing order 19.4 requires permission from the committee concerned before the public meeting can be recorded. As outlined in the government’s guide titled “Open and accountable local government A guide for the press and public on attending and reporting meetings of local government” the new regulations about filming apply to fire and rescue authorities in England such as Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.
Regulation 4 of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, which came into effect in August of this year changed the legislation. “Principal council in England” in the legislation also refers to fire and rescue authorities in England. The legislation was changed to state “(7A) While a meeting of a principal council in England is open to the public, any person attending is to be permitted to report on the meeting.”, “(7C) A person attending a meeting of a principal council in England for the purpose of reporting on the meeting must, so far as practicable, be afforded reasonable facilities for doing so.” and “(7E) Any person who attends a meeting of a principal council in England for the purpose of reporting on the meeting may use any communication method, including the internet, to publish, post or otherwise share the results of the person’s reporting activities.” with reporting implicitly referred to as “filming, photographing or making an audio recording of proceedings at a meeting”.
Other public bodies on Merseyside that had existing standing orders in their constitution about filming such as Liverpool City Council and the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel changed either their constitution or rules of procedure after the new regulations came into effect back in August. The issue about the public making objections in the current MFRA Meeting Reporting Protocol and Procedure to meetings being filmed also needs to be changed, as it misleads chairs and others into thinking they still have the power to stop filming at a public meeting. They don’t have any legal power to stop people filming a public meeting of this body because of these new regulations. Therefore both the constitution needs to be changed and the existing MFRA Meeting Reporting Protocol and Procedure and I call upon councillors and officers to do so to bring both the constitution and the MFRA Meeting Reporting Protocol and Procedure up to date and in line with the new regulations. I look forward to hearing about your proposals for a way forward on this issue. ”
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