Cameras, tweets, action: Hackney opens up

HACKNEY COUNCILLORS may be hiring personal groomers as the news filters out to the public  that they can be filmed at town hall meetings.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has given journalists and bloggers new rights to film council meetings. The law has been changed to allow citizens to report, tweet and film council meetings in England.

The guide published by the local government department explicitly states that the public should be allowed to film council meetings. It gives practical information for people to attend meetings of the executive and it outlines taxpayer rights to see local-government papers and documents.

Some councils in England are slow in complying with the rules about democratic access. But Hackney council says it takes “a relaxed approach” to the use of mobile phones and other electronic communications devices at meetings.

It advises: “Provided the council is given notice, and it isn’t a closed part of the meeting, photography and filming is generally permitted. So long as meetings are not disrupted, people can tweet, update their news blog or film.”

Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe ©
Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe: “I’m ready for my profile”

Hackney’s interpretation wins cautious approval from the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

It notes that the council’s constitution explains “that photography and sound recording shall generally be permitted except where the press and public have been excluded and provided notice is given to the monitoring officer by noon on the day of the meeting concerned and s/he has agreed [on] the request”.

The CfoI says: “To comment further we’d need to know in what circumstances the council would envisage the monitoring officer refusing to agree.

“Since they say they take ‘a relaxed approach’, we don’t want to be overly critical.”

The council adds that documents specifically related to Hackney meetings can be viewed at its website.

Hamish Scott 020813

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