Tuesday 30 August 2011

The Council asks the Senedd for Advice on Filming

At the end of July, my Assembly Member, Rhodri Glyn Thomas wrote to the Chief Executive expressing his support for calls to ensure that councils, National Parks etc record their meetings. He also acknowledged that the Council had stated it had a policy against recordings which it was intending to review. He asked for a copy of the policy and the timetable for review. He requested an explanation why myself and others were now asked to sign an 'undertaking', what exactly the undertaking was, and why I was excluded from the Gallery.

The Chief Executive asked the Head of Law and Administration, Mr L Thomas, to respond, and who had to again admit that 'There is no written policy against the recording of meetings'. Well, we know this, but of course the council has since shifted it's position, describing it as 'practice'. Not quite the same I'm afraid.

Neither was there any explanation why other members of the public were asked to sign the undertaking, or what 'exactly' it was. With regards to myself, the council used this opportunity for another rant - this time, the now customary and entirely unwarranted character assassination of me was for the benefit of not only my representative in the Senedd, but also my MP Jonathan Edwards, who shares the office.

Anyway, the Head of law also made an appeal, via Rhodri Glyn Thomas, to the Welsh Government for help and guidance to assist the council in it's forthcoming deliberations over the issues of filming;

"As I am sure you will appreciate it would greatly assist not only this council, but also others in Wales who are in a similar position, if the Welsh Government were to issue guidance on the subject, not only stating it's approach as a matter of policy, but also giving advice on how the legal implications which are associated with the subject should be addressed"

Well, I suppose it's a fair request and I wonder whether Carl Sargeant will be prompted into action? Or will the ruling administration in Cardiff maintain their view that 'it's up to individual councils'? I have no idea. Personally, as I have said, I think the Welsh Government should be issuing a requirement, and not just guidance. As for legal implications, I believe these are minimal and require little more than common sense. If any advice is given, I would very much like to see it.
(The legal chief also acknowledges the presence of my petition and I have to say I'm a little disappointed that he and his colleagues don't appear to have signed it; perhaps it was, as he states, my 'very poor recordings' that put them off).

I was quite bemused that he concluded his response to my AM by affirming the Council's ongoing commitment to the 'ideals' of 'openness, transparency and community and stakeholder engagement'.

Not from where I'm sitting Mr Thomas.


Cneifiwr said...

It is a matter of public record that a number of councils in Wales and England either provide video of their meetings or allow members of the public to record. All of them have taken legal advice, and some of that advice is even available online. There are no legal show stoppers.

Presumably this is not good enough for Carmarthenshire.

It's not just filming. Whenever one council decides to do something and does all the leg work, cannot other councils save themselves time and money, and say "X, Y and Z have already done the necessary work, so we don't have to reinvent the wheel here. Let's decide."

There is no earthly reason why Carmarthenshire needs guidance from Cardiff, or why it should waste one penny of our money commissioning more reports and taking more legal advice.

So this is just a delaying tactic and a ridiculous game of trying to pass the buck.

Let's hope Cardiff comes down hard on Carmarthenshire for wasting time and money.

caebrwyn said...

Hear hear. As I have said before, the practicalities and 'legal issues' have been tried and tested across the UK - even with the Information Commissioner. London's City Hall allows bloggers and members of the public to sit in the 'journalists corner' and, if they wish, point their digicams at Boris Johnson to their hearts content. There is no problem as long as there is no disruption.

Photon said...

It's pretty obvious they knew what the response was likely to be: 'it's up to individual councils', which then allows Carms to do as it wishes - to decide it won't allow it.

Can the MP ask for evidence of previous chuck-outs based on video recording, so that we can see for ourselves that it really is a 'practice'?

caebrwyn said...

@Photon yes, as you say, 'practice' is usually based on previous experience/event. Not in this case though.
Maybe, eventually, CCC will make a token gesture to webcast - I also suspect they will, at the same time, try and drop a clause into the Standing Orders specifically barring the public etc from recording. I will then have to persuade and trust our elected members to vote against such a step.