Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Filming Debate, So far....

As you may be aware, several Welsh Councils have agreed to consider the possibility of webcasting public meetings, even Carmarthenshire. With a quiet August, I hope the momentum will pick up again in the Autumn. Several Councillors across Wales have prompted the debate within their own Councils. Both Plaid Cymru in Carmarthenshire and even the Labour Leader in RCT have stated it wil be part of a manifesto pledge for May's local elections. As the lead for this came from Eric Pickles MP, I presume the Conservatives will give it a mention too. With the elections in mind, I hope the issue, which is about transparency of course, will have a part in a fair few campaigns, it will definitely be part of mine. Whilst some progress is being made for future debates, Wrexham, for one, have dismissed the idea for the moment, as the leadership believe there is insufficient interest to warrant the cost. I feel this may be a stumbling block across the board. I hope that someone savvy with this sort of technical know-how comes up with a reasonable costing exercise. Perhaps they should cast an eye over the Severn Bridge and see how it's being done there, and how much interest is being shown by the public. Maybe Welsh Councils should ask the public for their opinion before making decisions.

Less promising is the prospect of members of the public being allowed to film and record meetings. This, of course, costs nothing. Local Authorities (Carmarthenshire being the most extreme example) appear to be going out of their way to prevent this happening. I still cannot think of a good reason why not - I believe people will look back in a few years time and wonder what on earth the problem was and equally, what on earth they were trying to hide. It's a bit like the invention of electricity - a bit of a worrying, unknown quantity at the time but everyone soon got used to it and now we'd never be without it.

I, for one, will continue to challenge Carmarthenshire Council and attempt to film meetings, I hope a few other who are so inclined, will attempt to do the same at their own Town Halls.

Anyway, I wanted to list the Freedom of Information responses recieved so far. Some are late, some answered in full, some have gone for Internal Review and some reported to the ICO.

Thanks goes to Mike Walden and Aled Griffiths for taking the time to ask, and to follow up the responses;
(Scroll up each page to view full requests)
@MikeGWalden has asked Carmarthenshire, Monmouthshire and Cardiff (the only Council to webcast meetings). And @AledWyn has asked Powys, Isle of Anglesey, Gwynedd, Pembrokeshire, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Ceredigion, Vale of Glamorgan, Blaenau Gwent, Wrexham, Torfaen, Bridgend, Flintshire, Denbighshire, Neath Port Talbot, Conwy, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, Caerphilly and Swansea. Aled has also asked the Welsh Assembly for the Minister's view but it's not very inspiring, unlike the views several other AM's who have publicly expressed their support.

The Photon has asked, again through the Freedom of Information, for Carmarthenshire Council's fire and saftey assessments for the 'lock-in' (or lock-out if you're me) arrangements introduced for the Public Gallery on July 13th. 

Perhaps now is a good time to mention my petitions to the Welsh Assembly again, the 'filming' one is here, and the 'spending over £500' one is here - If you wish for more transparency in Welsh local government please sign. If you have already done so, thanks.


Photon said...

Good going, Jacqui (and all!)

It is very regrettable - and rather predictable, that councils like Wrexham deem there is insufficient interest to implement greater accountability by video streaming.

Have they undertaken any sort of meaningful, unbiased and representative assessment of what people in their area want? I doubt it very much.

My own FoIA request on health and safety matters has 14 working days (maximum) to go. Councils, disappointingly, tend to take the maximum or beyond, rather than try and respond earlier than this.

caebrwyn said...

I have updated the post with a link to your foi request.
Agree with you over the length of time for responses, particularly over simpler requests - one remedy of course would be to publish much more information online in the first place.

Richard said...

I recently had a fairly long response from the council to a formal complaint about the new Wormwood Scrubbs regime for visitors to the public gallery.

You've got to hand it to these boys because they managed to justify the clanking doors, multiple signings in and security on the grounds of fire regulations.

Expect something similar in response to your FOI. They are just thinking of our well-being as they lock us in. I suppose we ought to be grateful.

PS Those of you fortunate enough to receive the council's newspaper might like to cut out the "Shine Awards" nomination. This is to reward council employees at all levels for their general excellence. I shall be nominating chief exec. Mark James this year for raising the profile of Carmarthenshire in China and showing people there how to deal with dissidents. This could be the start of an exciting new municipal twinning programme.....