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.
Well, it has been a quiet summer in politics and on this blog (I was busy getting married, so sorry for no posts). However, things are beginning to look interesting within Plaid Cymru. A while ago I blogged about the Plaid leadership race, or non race at the time. I set a prediction of who might go for the top job after Ieuan Wyn Jones announced that he will be stepping down. Back then I gave a list of five possibilities, and within days one of the names I listed had thrown their hat into the ring. However, today comes a new announcement that a second person on my list has made her intentions known. Today Elin Jones published on her website a statement, clearly indicating that she will run for party leader.
The statement reads very much like a letter of application, however there are some hints of the kind of leader she will be. She is keen to point out her Socialist and Republican values, as well as her west Wales roots. How long will we have to wait before we hear who else will officially go for the job? Not long i would guess.
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.
I’m glad to hear that there are some movement out there on the issue of filming at council meetings. It would seem that Plaid Cymru councillors in Wrexham will seek to scrap Standing Order 45 (page 4-18), which prohibits council meetings without the chair’s permission.
Here’s what the standing order says,
“45 *PHOTOGRAPHS AND RECORDING AT MEETINGS
Proceedings at meetings may not be photographed, videoed, sound recorded or transmitted in any way outside the meeting without prior permission of the Chair. Failure to comply with this Standing Order may invoke Standing Orders 14 and 15 relating to Disorderly Conduct and Disturbance by members of the public.”
This is something Rhondda Cynon Taff should consider doing also.
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.
After hearing the terrible way Carmarthenshire County council treated a Jacqui Thompson and seeing that a FOI request was sent to the council in question about their policies on blogging, tweeting, and filming at council meetings, I thought it would be great to see how each of Wales’ 22 councils treat these issues. So I have already put a request into my council, Powys. I urge you to do so with your council.
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.
With electioneering in full swing right across Wales I thought it timely to discuss the way things look in the constituency I live in. As I have already mentioned in an earlier post, I have already cast my vote via postal ballot where I voted for David Senior (Plaid Cymru). I believe that Plaid are the only group in the Assembly that could offer an alternative to a Labour government. The Tories have no experience in WAG, and as for the Lib Dems, well their share of seats will either remain the same or, as expected decrease.
However, in Montgomeryshire there are two plausible outcomes to this election, either Wyn Williams, the Lib Dem candidate, or Russell George, the Tory candidate will win. As many of you will know the Tories took the seat from the Lib Dems in the 2010 Westminster election, and so are riding high off that victory. Lib Dems have had bad press in the area over the last few years with Lembit Opik (as seen on TV – and any other two bit reality show / tabloid newspaper) and his exploits, and of course the incident between the former AM, Mick Bates and paramedics.
The situation for the Lib Dems isn’t helped by the fact that the Tory that already represents Montgomeryshire in Westmister is a popular individual. Glyn Davies MP (and former AM) has earned great respect amongst many in the county accross the political spectrum. Glyn has managed to raise his profile, and that of the Tories in the county with his campaign against proposed plans for windmills and electric pylons in the county which has certainly reflected well on Russell George.
It should also be noted that it is only Russell George placards that can be seen along the roads around Llanidloes and Newtown. I know such a sentence can easily be hyperbole, but I have literally seen no poster nor placard in support of Wyn Williams up anywhere, up to this point anyway.
So I gingerly raise my head above the parapet here to say that in my opinion it will be Russell George and Montgomeryshire Tories who will be celebrating come May 6th.