Thursday 6 December 2012

Carmarthenshire Council to vote on public filming

The agenda has been published for next Wednesday's full meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council.
Item 5 reads;



To any councillors reading this, I'd like to make the following points;

1. Don't allow the decision to be put off any longer.

2. By agreeing with the motion you are;

a) Following guidance issued by both Westminster and Cardiff Governments.
b) Taking a small step to improving the transparency and accountability of the council
c) Supporting a cross-party agreement from one of your own scrutiny committees

3. The council pilot is proposing to film only full council meetings, then selectively edit the footage before making it available. It is therefore essential that the principle of public recording is allowed alongside.

4. As you will be aware, quietly and unobtrusively recording or filming meetings does not in any way disrupt proceedings.

5. The public must be able to film without prior permission from Chairs, legal officers etc.

6. The right to record/film should also include the press.

7. The recorded material remains the property of the recorder.

8. Should this motion be accepted, it is up to elected members to ensure that more decisions are not taken outside of meetings.

9. The public has a right to observe open council business which includes Members' and officers' actions, words and decisions by whatever means are available. Ideally, live webcasting of all meetings would give, once and for all, a true record of what was said, but this is not being proposed in the pilot.

10. The Minutes do not provide an accurate, timely, nor comprehensive record of proceedings.

11. Enquiries have revealed that the Council does not have a rule or policy prohibiting the public from recording meetings, the current ban is based on threat of expulsion or possible arrest which, if tested in court and given government guidance, would be unlikely to succeed.
The right to film should therefore be positively confirmed within the Standing Orders.

12. With regards to Data protection, the Information Commissioner said;

‘ In the absence of any other legal barrier to comment, publication, expression and so on, the Act in and of itself would not prevent such processing of information.  
In the majority of cases the citizen blogging about how they see the democratic process working is unlikely to breach the data protection principles.  
In the context of photographing or filming meetings, whilst genuine concerns about being filmed should not be dismissed, the nature of the activity being filmed – elected representatives acting in the public sphere – should weigh heavily against personal objections’.

A simple sign such as the one pictured, alerting members of the public who may address a meeting, to the possibility that they might be filmed would be sufficient, and provide an 'opt out' if they so wished.

(Source; Cambridge blogger, Richard Taylor); 

13. A vote in favour of the Motion will put an end to the current undemocratic and unwelcoming restrictions faced by visitors to the public gallery, which were not discussed by elected Members. This blog has also highlighted how public safety in the event of fire has been compromised by this 'operational decision' by senior officers. I now understand the council has been told to unlock the fire exit.

The requirement to sign an undertaking not to film has proved to be highly controversial with staff at reception being made, unfairly I believe, to 'follow orders' and try and deal with those who have, quite rightly, challenged it.  The situation became even more farcical when a 15 year old was forced to sign. The Chief Executive has now issued a apology to the family for what happened, hoping I'm sure to prevent the Ombudsman from casting a critical eye yet again over County Hall.


We now wait and see, I understand that a request will be made to have the vote recorded.
I aim to be present next Wednesday, and if anyone else feels strongly that this council needs to be more open and accountable, this Motion is a good place to start so if you can, please offer your support and join me in the public gallery, County Hall Carmarthen, at 10 am next Wednesday 12th December.


Jon said...

How I wish that the Council would see the light and not have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of accountable democracy. However, from all I have seen and read of the Carmarthenshire politburo, they will adopt the same intransigent, dismissive attitude we have seen in the past, contemptuous of the electorate and those who wish to see open government. Although they will couch it in terms littered with quasi-legal mumbo-jumbo, citing operational technical difficulties, and no doubt a paranoid reference to campaigners wishing to harm the Council and the people of the county.

Anonymous said...

I would be very surprised if the current council votes to allow this. Most of them just dont appear to get it ! Parliament has been filmed for years - imagine if this was to be stopped now, there would be a justifiable outcry.

Councillors may as well accept now that the current situation is no longer tenable. Making people sign undertakings and then be escorted to the gallery and then be locked in is bringing this county into disrepute. Its almost laughable and as you say it must be challengeable - someone will do it one day and then we will be the laughing stock.

Councillors - especially Labour councillors please show a bit of spirit ! what the ladies on the Board say doesnt necessairily mean they have to be obeyed. Search your political soul - do you really feel you have more in common with Pam than Plaid. If you answer yes to this you should apply for membership of another party now. You are a member of a proud party with a history of standing up for the working man - please show spirit and allow this measure to go through.

Sim Blake said...

They'll vote against it.

Anonymous said...

I will not be able to attend the meeting but certainly would like a list of how the votes went.
We could then ask our councillors WHY !!

Anonymous said...

They might say because they were told to!

caebrwyn said...

Thanks for the comments, I'm trying to remain optimistic!

nospin said...

Well done,and I hope I can say that to the ordinary members of council after the meeting.

Between now and then there is a going to be a lot of arm twisting and horse trading.

Let us hope the members value their democratic vote more than the goodies on offer.

Anna Mosity said...

How about asking your councillor to support it before the meeting? If they don't they know what they can expect from their electorate next time.

I assume Caerbrwyn you will be publishing full details of how each councillor voted?

Anonymous said...

Get a Life !! Why do you want to see such boring events ?. Having sat thro other councils meetings as an observer I would rather see emulsion paint dry Why do you want to film old men & women falling asleep listening the same old XXXX from Sian Caiach re Burry Inlet and other boring old !!

Anonymous said...

I can't even get my Town Council to speak to my radio show about an issue they have openly spoken about in the Journal.

Anonymous said...

Latest from County Hall... the Labour and Independent Groups have BOTH put their Councillors on a "three line whip" to vote against the motion so it will fail. I'm told one member of the Independent Group will either vote for the motion if not 'pursuaded' to 'go missing' or abstain. Welcome to democracy boys.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 20:15 Clearly life would be a lot better if people like you weren't in it!

caebrwyn said...

Anon 23.48 Please email me if you have any further details

Anonymous said...

@anon 20.15
The public want to see Council meetings filmed and recorded because the 'old men and women' you refer to make decisions that affect the everyday life of all of us and it's important that the ones unable to attend meetings are provided with a true account of who said what.

Martin Milan said...

Voters might like to consider just how, if they are sincerely independent, the Independents allegedly find themselves under a three line whip...

Anonymous said...

It seems that some members of the council are very frightened about being filmed because things are going on in these various meetings that are not acceptable.. I was always taught that if you didn't do anything wrong you wouldn't have anything to fear..