Sunday, 6 May 2012
Back briefly to the matter of allowing the public to film council meetings. Last year, in July, not long after my arrest, St Clears Town Council (Carmarthenshire) issued this statement (my underlining);
The Town Council's Planning Committee expressed support for Carmarthenshire blogger, Jacqui Thompson, at its meeting on 14th June . This was endorsed by the full Council at its meeting on 12th July....Chair of the Planning Committee, Cllr Selwyn Runnett, commented:
"The County Council are in danger of making themselves look foolish. This story has been covered by papers such as the Guardian and The Telegraph as well as Private Eye. This is the 21st century and Council Tax payers should be entitled to record public meetings of any Council.."
Move forward now to 2012, a few weeks ago local man, Alan Evans, author of community blog, the St Clears Times put in a request to the Town Council to film it's meetings, his request was refused almost unanimously, the only dissenter, I believe, was Cllr Runnett who has maintained his support for openness through filming. The (now usual) fears were expressed that 'context may be lost' and they, the council should have control over filming. Mr Evans has raised previous concerns about how the town council has been operating, he has used the proper channels, sought answers and, basically, as any of us will be aware who have tried to raise a concern involving any issue greater than a local pothole, got nowhere. His reasons for wishing to film sounds familiar;
"I made a request to film the meeting as I felt that discussions were taking place and the minutes did not reflect these discussions. In the interests of democracy and open local government I made a request. Previously I had made a request to digitally record sound only and this was also refused on the grounds that the sound could be doctored....I also pointed out that the Town Council had discussed your case and decided to support you and condemn Carmarthenshire County Council's decision. Hypocrisy reigns..
A camera pointed to cover the whole room running all the time is hardly rocket science. What are they afraid of...?"
So, not only Mr Evans but the residents of St Clears and so far, the whole of Carmarthenshire are left with the 'context' as determined and controlled by the very councils who should be open to public scrutiny and who are so obviously reluctant to allow that to happen, and who continue to give the impression rightly or wrongly, that they have something to hide. As I have pointed out many times the minutes of county council meetings are 'selective', often inaccurate and not subject to adequate review prior to approval. In other words, 'doctored'. If the County Council decides to record it's meetings we are again at the mercy of public image 'editing', it is essential that, alongside webcasting or whatever mode it may or may not use, the public are freely afforded the chance to record meetings as a proper balance, nothing less than complete openness should be, or will be, tolerated. It's unlikely that there will be an enormous rush by members of the public to record the deliberations of our town and community councils, but the principle needs to be established that if they want to, they can.
Posted by caebrwyn at 16:14