Posted: Wed 6th Aug 2014

You can film, tweet and blog from town halls all you want from today – BUT ONLY IN ENGLAND!

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Aug 6th, 2014


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A new law aimed at boosting local democracy by allowing public and press to film and report digitally from council meetings in England has been passed today, sadly it does not apply to Wales!

FCC chamber via http://penyffordd-district.blogspot.co.uk/

FCC chamber via http://penyffordd-district.blogspot.co.uk/

The move opens councils’ digital doors, covering broadcasters, national press, local press, bloggers and hyper-local journalists and the wider public.

The new law aims to end active resistance amongst some councils to greater openness.

Councils have even called the police to arrest people who tried to report, tweet or film council meetings, or claimed spurious ‘health and safety’ or ‘reputational risks’ to digital reporting.

Meanwhile in Wales, the digital revolution drags in knuckles along the floor as the Welsh Government to date has resisted wholesale legislative change to archaic town hall practice, opting for a much less confrontational approach allowing councils to do what they see fit.

eric-pickles

Eric Pickels has championed the opening up of town halls to the wider public through filming and digital media in England, in Wales he has been told to mind his own business – devolution appears to be allowing local Government to become more opaque!

Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, who has championed the opening up town halls in England, said last year the Welsh government had “rebuffed” the suggestion that the same approach should be taken.

“Welsh ministers have claimed that the interest in openness is an ‘unhealthy obsession’. Yet a blogger in Carmarthenshire was arrested and handcuffed by the police for filming a council meeting,” he said.

To date only a handful of Welsh councils allow the public to film council business and in most cases its selective, however many councils have utilised a £40,000 grant handed to them to develop live webcasting, though as we were told by a Flintshire County Council spokesperson the webcasting trial would primarily be used to explore ‘remote attendance’ for councillors.

In a statement today announcing the new rules, local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, said:

Half a century ago, Margaret Thatcher championed a new law to allow the press to make written reports of council meetings. We have updated her analogue law for a digital age.

Local democracy needs local journalists and bloggers to report and scrutinise the work of their council, and increasingly, people read their news via digital media. The new ‘right to report’ goes hand in hand with our work to stop unfair state competition from municipal newspapers – together defending the independent free press.

There is now no excuse for any council not to allow these new rights. Parliament has changed the law, to allow a robust and healthy local democracy. This will change the way people see local government, and allow them to view close up the good work that councillors do.

Will the Welsh Government follow? it doesn’t look like it at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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