Wirral Council & Filming: Another Chapter in The Long Running Saga

A brief blog post outlining the long running saga regarding filming public meetings of Wirral Council, covering the recent ban by the Chair of the Planning Committee, Eric Pickle’s advice and a brief run down of the history.

Following reporting on the filming ban at Wirral Council’s Planning Committee on this blog last Thursday, the local newspapers have picked up the story (with quotes from Cllr Mooney), Liverpool Echo: Wirral Council defy Government to ban filming and Daily Post: Wirral Council defies government over filming ban. In addition to the local newspaper articles it’s been picked up by Prolific North: Wirral Council defends filming ban on blogger.

So, although the articles are broadly correct I’d like to correct a slight error and make a few clarifications.

Liverpool Echo
“At a meeting of the planning committee on Thursday, a local blogger was again told to stop filming.”

This should read “Shortly before a meeting of the planning committee on Thursday, a local blogger was again told to stop filming.” If it had been at the meeting itself I would’ve posted the footage online, however yes, it has happened before (18th December 2012) on a close 6:5 vote. Back then Cllr Mooney said it would be “just for this meeting” (see video below).

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After a ban on filming happened at a Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting (on which Cllr Mooney sat) on the 28th March 2013 to discuss the controversial closure of Moreton Day Centre, I sent a letter before claim to Wirral Council (which is the first stage of a judicial review of a decision). I received this response by email back from Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour (the same Surjit Tour that Cllr Mooney said told her she could stop filming at meetings).

Tour, Surjit
stephengerrard, me
Tue, 2 Apr 2013 16:08:47 +0100

Dear Mr Brace

I am on annual leave until 15 April. I am somewhat surprised by your email and letter given that I have asked you a number of times to meet me to discuss this issue.

Furthermore, there no ban on filming as you and another have been filming a number of committee meetings.

I would suggest that no proceedings are issued until I have had the opportunity to respond. I therefore request an extension of time to 30 April.

I await your response.

Please can you also include Stephen Gerrard in any further response.

Yours sincerely

Surjit Tour

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I was allowed to film meetings until the Planning Committee meeting of 27th June 2013, a further letter before claim (with a proposed reply date of 12th July) was sent to Wirral Council’s legal department and interested parties on the 28th June 2013. At the time of writing I have not received a reply from either Wirral Council or the interested parties.

After I received Surjit Tour’s reply, Eric Pickles issued this press release entitled “Lights, camera, democracy in action” castigating Wirral Council for stopping filming previously on health and safety grounds (a claim that was refuted by the Health and Safety Executive). This led to a wide variety of press coverage (national newspapers (Guardian, Times), various bloggers and others) and this article in the Wirral Globe entitled “Legal review ordered into rules allowing citizens to video Wirral Council committees” (with an unusually high twenty-seven comments).

Last December councillors called for a review. Eight months later I’m still waiting for this review to finish!

I will also make one small response to Cllr Mooney’s comments, I did say that if she as Chair asked a petitioner if they didn’t want to be filmed and they said no I wouldn’t. However she said, “I can’t do that” rejecting what I felt was a reasonable compromise. Despite her assertion that Planning Committee is the only committee where members of the public regularly address it, there are in fact others ranging from the Highway and Traffic Representation Panel, Licensing Act 2003 committee, Licensing, Health and Safety & General Purposes Committee and full Council meetings (public question time). I hope the above sets the record straight somewhat.

134 Boundary Road, Bidston, CH43 7PH

Author: John Brace

New media journalist from Birkenhead, England who writes about Wirral Council. Published and promoted by John Brace, 134 Boundary Road, Bidston, CH43 7PH. Printed by UK Webhosting Ltd t/a Tsohost, 113-114 Buckingham Avenue, Slough, Berkshire, England, SL1 4PF.