Opening access to local democracy

A year or two ago, I blogged a lot about getting local councils to transmit their meetings online, for voters to see what was going on. This was sparked by the event of @caebrwyn being arrested for filming at a council meeting at Carmarthenshire county hall.

I found it strange that a council would go to the trouble of calling the police on someone filming a meeting, which was open to the public. Surely the public should be allowed to see and hear what was being discussed and decided in their name at county hall.

As a result of this, I, and a few others went about making requests under the freedom of information act for information on what councils were doing to allow filming, and broadcasting in council meetings. As I recall, it was allowed at the discretion of the chairperson, although few councils bothered to broadcast their meetings online.

It was good to read this article today, and encouraging to see that more councils are now attempting to use the internet to open access to local democracy. This certainly makes democracy far more transparent, especially at the level that impacts on citizen’s every day lives.  It would seem that £1.25m will be available to install broadcasting equipment at county halls.

Y Gymraeg, technoleg a’r gymdeithas sifil.

Heddiw, mae nifer o bobl yn cyfarfod yn Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru yn Aberystwyth i drafod amrywiaeth o bynciau yn ymwneud gyda thechnoleg a’r iaith Gymraeg. Mae Hacio’r Iaith wedi cael ei chynnal ers 2010, ac wedi codi sawl pwnc pwysig.

Un peth sydd wedi codi heddiw sydd wedi fy ysgogi i flogio (ers sawl mis). Yn sgil trafodaeth ar ymgyrchi / lobio ar lein postiodd Rhodri ap Dyfrig sawl cwestiwn ar beth ddylai digwydd, ac ar ba ffurf dylid symud ymlaen.

Nodwyd sawl pwynt yn fan hyn (gwna i ddim ail adrodd nhw i gyd yma). Ond yn fy marn i, mae’r hyn sy’n cael ei gwneud gan mysociety.org yn dda iawn ac yn adeiladol. Byth yw’ch barn chi ar y mater?

A sabbatical… not to concentrate on my garden I hasten to add!

After a period of silence on this blog I make my return with news of scandal! In a local politics first for this blog, what better way to dive in than on a “scandal”. News came from Llanidloes town hall that there has been misuse of funds, in particular the use of the council groundskeeper on the private garden of the town clerk.

It would seem that the council’s groundskeeper worked on the clerk’s garden while he should have been working for the town council.  The scandal, however, comes from the fact that the town council voted to “sweep the matter under the carpet”.  According to the council, accounts are audited as required, and the auditors have not called this into question.

A petition is now doing the rounds calling for  an investigation into the matter.  I wonder whether this issue is being used by individuals who happen to be standing in the 3rd of May county council election?  Hmm….

Leanne Wood to stand for leadership

And the fourth person on my prediction list has announced they will be standing for Plaid Cymru’s leadership. This evening Leanne Wood has announced she will be standing for the leadership of the Party.

If elected Leanne will certainly navigate the party to the left.

Simon Thomas to run for leader

And soon I shall have a full house!  The third person on my predicted candidates for Plaid Cymru leadership list, which I complied a while ago, has announced that he will be standing.  Former Ceredigion MP, WAG SpAd and current Mid and West Wales regional AM, Simon Thomas has thrown his headwear into the ring.

This has now made things a bit more interesting, two of the candidates are either current of former representatives of one of Wales’ most marginal seats.

In his statement, Simon made it clear (like other candidates) how in touch he is with all of Wales, not just Welsh speaking areas.  Of course, being from Aberdare originally, Simon is the first candidate in this race to have a connection with the Valleys (I believe).

Simon is a left of centre candidate, very much like Elin Jones, and so I must question how will these two individuals win support from a shared pool of natural supporters?

Lets see whether anyone else from my list will step up to the mark?

It’s not fair, because we weren’t there.

It was the usual anti-eu blabber on the radio this morning by the chair of the 1922 committee, then came a pearl of an argument for holding a referendum,

“it is right to hold a referendum on EU membership because millions of people weren’t able to vote in the last referendum on Europe”

This argument strikes me as weak. To this logic, we could argue that there should be a referendum on the monarchy, the role of Prime Minister or even Wales’ membership to the UK, after all, no one alive today were able to vote for these!

It’s good to share

Finally you can share posts from this blog on social sites, or e-mail, or even print them out (although think green before you print). So, if you like what I blog, then please share!

The longlist… there’s always next year

Although this blog made it to the longlist of best political blog in the Welsh Blog Awards; it has, unfourtunately, not been lucky enough to make it to the short list.

However @caebrwyn’s (Jacqui Thomson) blog has made it to the short list, and a very well done to her! There is a ‘people’s choice award’ for the blog where you all can vote, and so I urge all of you to go and vote for carmarthenshireplanning.blogspot.com.  The blog has been working constantly to open up local government decision making, and to attain the right to film at council meetings, a cause fully supported on this blog!

Top 50 Welsh Blog (Number 28 to be precise!)

Well, my little blog has been included in Total Politics‘ Top 50 Welsh blogs. Number 28, wonderful!  Thats only one behind the Institute of Welsh Affairs’ blog!

Filming, tweeting and blogging at council meetings

It been a couple of months since I began enquiring into local authorities’ attitudes to blogging, tweeting, and in particular filming at their meetings.  All of Wales’ 22 authorities have sent a reply to my enquiry into policies they have on this issue which can be seen here.  It would seem that most councils do not have extensive or definite policies on the issue of the public filming at council meetings.  What is clear is that most councils leave permission to film at council meetings at the discretion of mayors or, in most cases to the council chairperson.  This is, of course a reasonable policy, however there are no guidelines for chairpeople to follow, which outlining under what circumstances can they allow or refuse filming.   When I attempted to ask about such guidelines my requests were refused due to their “similarity” to my initial requests.

It is interesting to note, however, that the Welsh Government has not given any information or guidance to Welsh councils on this issue.  I asked,

“Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, please provide copies of
all:
A) directives
B) discussions (emails / memos)

sent to all or any Welsh councils relating to the following:

1) filming of council meetings
2) tweeting at council meetings
3) blogging of council meetings”

The response was:

“I have not found any information that fits this description. The Minister for Local Government and Communities has not issued any advice, directives or memos to Welsh councils regarding this matter.”

Of course the Welsh Government would argue that they leave such issues to the local authorities, however, this lessaiz fare attitude isn’t always the case in Welsh Government and local authority relations.

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