A report from the Taxpayers Alliance suggests that most councils have restrictions on their meetings being recorded by members of the public. It looked at 30 councils in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
The report found:
- Eight councils out of 30 have no restrictions on recording, blogging, and tweeting, other than those doing so must not disrupt proceedings: Lincoln, Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, Richmondshire, Sheffield, South Kesteven, and York.
- 12 councils only allow members of the public to record at meetings with approval of either the Chairman or the Mayor: Barnsley, Boston, East Lindsey, Hambelton, Harrogate, Hull, North Kesteven, North Lincolnshire, Ryedale, Selby, South Holland, and Wakefield. Bradford and Calderdale councils only allow recording to take place if the majority of members vote in favour of doing so.
- East Riding of Yorkshire Council does not record its meetings, and forbids local residents from recording, blogging and tweeting at all meetings of the council.
- West Lindsey District Council records meetings, but forbids members of the public from recording, blogging and tweeting.
- Rotherham Council only allows recordings on a device agreed by the council.
It is perfectly reasonable to say that proceedings should not be disrupted. It people cause a noise, or an obstruction or behave in a threatening way then they should be required to leave. But it should be possible to record proceedings (or tweet or live blog about them on a laptop) without this causing any difficulty.
In June, Eric Pickles issued guidance in support of transparency saying:
Modern technology has created a new cadre of bloggers and hyper-local journalists, and councils should open their digital doors and not cling to analogue interpretations of council rules.
It is of concern that many councils are yet to follow this guidance.