Friday, 1 May 2015

Filming Welsh councils - Failure in Flintshire

Update 7th May; Flintshire Council has written to Mr Butler to say they now have no objection to him recording meetings. This is good news although permission has been granted on the basis that he will provide them with a copy of the recording...which seems to me to be entirely unnecessary and probably beyond their powers.


The effort to shine a light on Welsh councils continues. As we know, legislation was passed last year in England protecting citizens' democratic right to film or record open meetings; the principle has been established. All we've had in Wales is feeble words of 'encouragement' to councils from successive local government ministers. The progress, or lack of it, over the past few years has been reported on this blog.

In Carmarthenshire the recommendation conjured up by the working group, following the WLGA report, is to allow the public to film/record meetings but only those that are already webcast, for a twelve month pilot. Ridiculous and misses the point completely.

So what about elsewhere in Wales? Events at a meeting of Flintshire council yesterday illustrates that Welsh councils, aside from Pembrokeshire, still cannot grasp the concept of open government and the public's' right to report.

Flintshire resident, Mr John Butler, contacted his council three days in advance of a scrutiny meeting to inform those in charge that he would be quietly and unobtrusively recording the meeting, he duly quoted the English legislation as well as the willingness by the Planning Inspectorate in Wales to allow filming.

He was then informed that the 'new rules' didn't apply to Wales and there were 'by-laws' preventing recording....the usual stuff.

The meeting, which was held yesterday, was discussing impending library closures, clearly a matter of considerable local interest.

Mr Butler, undeterred, announced his intention to record the civic process by way of a note to the Chair, and took a determined stand. He was asked to turn off the recorder several times and refused. They also asked him to remove the batteries from the recorder. He remained calm but warned the officers that he would not be intimidated and would seek legal advice if he was forcibly removed.

Eventually the Chair claimed that he had 'no choice' under the Standing Orders and forced the meeting to a close.

Like myself, Mr Butler cannot understand what the problem is and why the Welsh Government doesn't enact the same legislation as England. It is not a party political issue but one of simple transparency. Webcasting is welcome, of course, but is council controlled and does not cover all meetings.

Mr Butler remains defiant an wants his grandchildren to grow up in a more transparent Wales. His challenge to Flintshire Council continues and he has vowed to continue to record open meetings. The ball is in the council's court, or perhaps the Minister, Leighton Andrews might want to sort this out once and for all and commit the Welsh Government to protect the democratic rights of the Welsh public.

Update 5th May;
Now reported in the north Wales based Daily Post; Flintshire council meeting halted after pensioner refuses to give up 'his right' to record it


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Planning - now web cast Full Council web cast what more do you want no one turns up for all the Scrutiny Meetings etc - so there is no interest

Anonymous said...

Whats the point when decisions have usually been made and as for scrutiny there is no scrutiny and no likelihood of ever persuading any of the members to look into problems & wrongdoing in the Social Care Department.

Jennifer Brown (whistleblower)

caebrwyn said...

That will always be a problem, particularly when the culture of the council remains secretive and defensive.

Anonymous said...

We all know who is responsible for what happens in CCC and there will be no culture change until he goes.He has a strangle-hold on officers and councillors of the ruling administration and apart from some Plaid members there is no one to challenge his authority.