It is often very helpful for local community groups or hyperlocal blogs to be able to record what happens at council meetings. It allows them to capture and share a record of what was agreed – and hold politicians to account in the future. It can also help them celebrate success and show good local government in practice.
Some local council’s have had problems with this and today the Department for Communities and Local Government have clarified things for us all.
many councils across the country are still refusing to allow people to film public council meetings. In some episodes of TV programme Grand Designs, viewers have been perplexed at cameras being stopped from filming meetings of the planning committee considering the self-build projects.
The new guidance explicitly states that councillors and council officers can be filmed at council meetings, and corrects misconceptions that the Data Protection Act somehow prohibits this.
The Health and Safety Executive has also shot down the suggestion that ‘health and safety ‘regulations’ also bar filming, which Wirral Council used to justify a filming ban last year.
The new rules do not apply to Wales, as they have not been introduced by the Welsh government who have devolved responsibility. This led to the situation of a blogger being arrested and handcuffed by the police for filming a council meeting in Carmarthenshire. Wrexham council also banned a journalist from the Daily Post from tweeting a council meeting. Eric Pickles has today challenged Welsh ministers to introduce the new rights in Wales too.
Here’s the document and any and all active citizens and local bloggers should keep this in their back pocket.
This doesn’t apply to Wales at the moment. Be considerate, don’t disrupt, get those cameras out, share what you shoot.