With Carmarthenshire County Council continuing to show the rest of Wales how to avoid scrutiny and stifle the democratic process, I received a response from my regional AM concerning filming at council meetings. Ok it wasn’t a response from my AM as such, rather it was a relaying of the Local Authorities Minister’s view. Here’s Carl Sargeant reply.
It would seem that the minister thinks that filming without prior consent shouldn’t be allowed; fair enough say you, however this is just licence for controlling chief executives, mayors and chairpersons to avoid transparency which suppresses local democracy. The minister also explains that he disagrees with filming people without their knowledge and permission, again fair enough; however, councillors are public representatives and are acting publicly in council meetings, so should be ready for people to film them while debating and voting on matters that will affect their constituents.
However, I contacted the AM regarding her view on the principle of filming should be allowed in council meetings. However, the principle isn’t expressly discussed in the reply, but the minister does outline that the Welsh Government does support councils’ engagement with the public. The minister has not, as of yet, set out guidelines for councils on this issue as shown in my recent FOI request, he does encourage councils to make the maximum effort in engaging the public in their proceedings. However without guidelines councils won’t do anything they don’t have to. This is all ambiguous stuff, with the minister relying on good will, and as we have seen, some councils are short of that.
It was good to see that the minister commends Carmarthenshire’s plans to webcast proceedings, and that it is an example to other councils. However a similar idea (Carmarthen TV) has been mooted for a while and as of yet is still to be seen. I suppose time will tell.