Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Campaigners have welcomed new rules which they say will help ‘demonstrate the lack of openness and puerile debate’ in local government.
The ‘right to report’ legislation, which came into force last week, allows members of the public to film, record and tweet live from meetings.
The news has been heralded as a major advance by campaigners from the East Devon Alliance (EDA) and Save Our Sidmouth (SOS), as well as East Devon District Council (EDDC) which says the new rules will enhance transparency.
Richard Thurlow, chairman of SOS, said the group intended to use the opportunity ‘to its fullest extent’.
He added: “This is extremely helpful as it will enable the public to record public EDDC meetings and demonstrate the lack of openness, often childish and puerile debate and steamroller tactics used.”
EDA chairman Paul Arnott said that the changes represented an ‘overdue reform’ but added that they would help to encourage democracy in local government.
He said: “This means that EDDC’s inadequate and even hostile replies to questions raised legitimately can be exposed to wider public scrutiny by council tax payers.
“Similarly, as open debates will be recorded by the public, councillors may decide to adopt a mature and courteous approach to each other and to the public.”
The rules apply to any public meeting held by town, parish, district and county councils and take effect immediately.
People wishing to film or record are not required to inform the council in advance.
Government guidelines encourage members of the public to let staff know so any necessary arrangements can be made.
An EDDC spokesman said: “We live in a modern digital world where the use of modern communication methods such as filming and tweeting should be embraced for enhancing the openness and transparency of local government.”