It’s up to them

Local Authorities Minister

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.

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3 thoughts on “It’s up to them”

  1. Very disappointing.One thing that is often forgotten is that there is not a single council HQ without CCTV, and all visitors, councillors, etc. are filmed by the council as they go about their business whether they like it or not. Apparently that’s OK for some, but not OK to film public meetings at which important business is being transacted.

    A couple of quibbles with the last paragraph. Carmarthenshire has not announced plans to webcast proceedings – it has only said that it will look into it, without giving any timescales. To date there has been no public meeting or open discussion of the matter, and attempts by one councillor to table a motion to debate it were rejected by the chief executive. If there is discussion going on, it is behind closed doors.

    The Carmarthen TV project was an experiment set up a couple of years back to create an online version of the council’s “newspaper” (i.e. film clips of council bosses cutting ribbons and telling viewers what a good job they were doing). It was not about webcasting meetings. The project apparently cost £30,000 and was quietly abandoned.

  2. I expect the council would put a tender out for the webcasting facility and find the most expensive vehicle, passing the costs on to the constituents. There’d be such a stink, they’d bin it and could say, “we did try, but public opinion was against it”.

    1. This again is where transparency and openness should come through. All tenders should then be open to public viewing and scrutiny.

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