The Comminities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has published new guidance explicitly states that Councils should allow the public to film council meetings.
There is a new guide which gives practical information for the public to attend meetings of a council’s executive and how to obtain council documents. The Government has changed the law to allow citizens to report, blog, tweet and film council meetings in England. It also outlines the assorted rights that taxpayers’ have to access council papers and documents.
However, many councils across the country are still refusing to allow people to film public council meetings. Wirral Council used "health and safety" to justify a filming ban last year.
The new rules from Mr Pickles do not apply to Wales, as they have not been introduced by the Welsh Government who have devolved responsibility. This led to the situation of a blogger being arrested and handcuffed by the police for filming a council meeting in Carmarthenshire. Wrexham council also banned a journalist from the Daily Post from tweeting a council meeting.
Mr Pickles said:
“I want to stand up for the rights of journalists and taxpayers to scrutinise and challenge decisions of the state. Data protection rules or health and safety should not be used to suppress reporting or a healthy dose of criticism.
“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.
“Councillors shouldn’t be shy about the public seeing the good work they do in championing local communities and local interests.
“I challenge the Welsh Government to give taxpayers in Wales the same rights as those in England now have, and stop the scandal of free speech being suppressed in Wales’ town halls.”
Good them in this Leveson age there is one cabinet minitsre championing press freedom ratherthan seeking to constrain it.