DCLG publishes guide to reporting on and filming council meetings PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 17 June 2013 10:28

The Department for Communities and Local Government has published a guide to reporting on council meetings, amid claims that many local authorities are still prohibiting filming.

The DCLG said the guidance, Your council’s cabinet: going to its meetings, seeing how it works – a guide for local people, “corrects misconceptions” that the Data Protection Act prohibited the filming of councillors and council officers.

The new guide, which can be viewed here, covers:

  • The national rules;
  • Going to meetings of a council’s executive;
  • Available information about executive decisions;
  • Rights of access to meetings and information; and 
  • Descriptions of exempt information.

The DCLG added that the guidance set out that “filming should be overt, people should be informed at the start of the meeting, and councils should have a clear policy on whether members of the public who may speak at a meeting should have the right to opt-out of filming (so as not to discourage public participation)”.

Ministers sought last year to introduce greater transparency and openness into meetings of the executive via The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 (S.I. 2012/2089).

The DCLG cited the controversial Carmarthenshire case where blogger Jacqui Thompson was arrested and handcuffed after trying to film a meeting.

Mrs Thompson later sued the county council and its chief executive for defamation, but lost and was ordered to pay £25,000 in damages after a counter-claim against her succeeded.

Communities Secretary Eric 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.”

He added: “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.”

Pickles also called on the Welsh Government to introduce rights similar to those in the 2012 Regulations. The issue is a devolved matter.