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….
Well, it’s not a huge surprise that Carmarthenshire County Council has failed to comply with the Freedom of Information and provide information they hold on tweeting, filming and blogging at their meetings. Remember this was the council that had @caebrwyn arrested for filming at their meeting. I’m glad that an internal review to this delay is being held and *should* be responded t by the 9th of August! Hmm… we’ll see.
By the way I will have a map of council’s attitudes to filming at meetings up and running over the next few weeks.
Yesterday I received a reply to my FOI request from Anglesey regarding their stance on filming, tweeting and blogging at their meetings (Link below). To put it simply, Anglesey has no policy nor any standing orders regarding filming at council meetings. However in an e-mail released under the request it is made clear that “Historically,it is unlikely that the recording of public meetings by the public would be tolerated.” It does, however concede that media are allowed in to film beginning of meetings (councillors entering etc.)
It is, however, to note that the council are piloting audio recordings which will be put on their websites, post meeting. Why pilot audio and not film? It is also worth noting that the arrest in Carmarthenshire of @caebrwyn has gained the attention of council officers in Anglesey at least.
After submitting nineteen FOI requests to Welsh councils, I have heard back form one. Rhondda Cynon Taff have recently amended their constitution (20.1) to include the following rule on filming and taking photographs at their council meetings:
“Proceedings at meetings may not be photographed, videoed, sound recorded or transmitted in anyway outside the meeting without prior permission of the Mayor. Failure to comply with this rule may invoke Rule 19.4 (Members to leave meeting) and 20.1 (Removal of members of the public).”
So what would happen to you under rule 20.1? Well the following…
“If a member of the public interrupts proceedings, the Mayor will warn the person concerned. If they continue to interrupt, the Mayor will order their removal from the meeting room.”
It is unclear how holding a phone (or any recording equipment) up in the public gallery could “interrupt proceedings”. It is also unclear on what criteria the mayor will allow or disallow filming at council meetings. I have replied to the council to clarify this point, and I am currently awaiting a reply.
I was shocked to see news of the arrest of a blogger in Carmarthen for the terrible crime of… filming a council meeting from the public gallery. Yes, it would seem that Carmarthenshire county council have something that it doesn’t want to be filmed. In today’s connected world this story was across twitter and on the Telegraph website.
It is a welcome sight to see more people tweeting blogging, and (attempting to) film council proceedings. Lets hope more people will be willing to draw attention to what councils do.
UPDATE 13/6/11 : It was only a matter of time before a Freedom of Information request was made. Lets hope the response will give some clarity on the situation.
Here is the video of what happened in the chamber.