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Bexley Council shy away from open democracy despite government guidance

PUBLISHED: 15:17 20 June 2013 | UPDATED: 15:17 20 June 2013

Eric Pickles. Picture: PA/ Suzanne Plunkett

Eric Pickles. Picture: PA/ Suzanne Plunkett

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Members of the public still will not be able to film Bexley Council meetings despite guidance from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to allow it.

That enforcement was put into practice at a meeting last night when Nicholas Dowling was threatened with ejection after he said he wanted to make an audio recording of the proceedings.

Eric Pickles MP said last week: “Council meetings are public meetings. I want to stand up for the rights of journalists and taxpayers to scrutinise and challenge the laws of the state.

“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.”

But the council will continue to prohibit audio and visual recording due to concerns over people, including members of the public, being filmed without their consent.

A council spokeswoman said: “Such recordings are not permitted without prior approval, so as to prevent people from being filmed without their consent, including members of the public.

“The option of webcasting has been discussed and will be considered over the coming year – ahead of the move to the former Woolwich building next year.”

At last night’s (June 19) public realm overview and scrutiny committee meeting at the civic chamber Mr Dowling wanted to make an audio recording but was told he would be ejected if he persisted in recording the meeting.

The spokeswoman continued: “A member of the public was asked to leave last night’s meeting after they were asked to stop recording on several occasions during the meeting as they had not received prior approval from the chairman.

“Their subsequent behaviour was so disruptive that it was impossible for the meeting to continue. The police were called.”

Do you think members of the public should be allowed to film in Bexley Council meetings. Contact the news desk on 0208 477 3858, email robin.cottle@archant.co.uk or tweet @BexleyTimes.

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