On the day of Broadland District Council's meeting to vote on the adoption of the Joint Core Strategy Stephen Heard, Chair of Stop Norwich Urbanisation, requested that SNUB be granted permission to video the meeting in view of the announcement from the Department for Communities and Local Government that citizen bloggers should be allowed to cover council meetings. In the announcement Eric Pickles said "Opening the door to new media costs nothing and will help improve public scrutiny. The greater powers and freedoms that we are giving local councils must be accompanied by stronger local accountability. We are in the digital age and this analogue interpretation of the press access rules is holding back a new wave of local scrutiny, accountability and armchair auditors."
After SNUB had 'tweeted' that we had had no response to our request BDC's Communications Manager tweeted that SNUB should take video equipment to the meeting but to no avail. Below is what happened (courtesy of the Minutes of this meeting):
"The Leader of the Council informed Members that he had received a request that afternoon for permission to video the Council meeting. He suggested that, if the Council was minded to allow recording of its proceedings, such recordings should be done independently to ensure a proper and accurate account of proceedings was taken and maintained. This was an issue the new administration might like to consider but, as yet, the Council had not taken the opportunity to consider the principle of recording meetings and he felt that the current request should be refused, bearing in mind the late notice of the request. He then proposed, seconded by Mrs Davis-Claydon, that the request to record the meeting be refused. Mr Joyce asked for further information about the request as, in principle, he did not feel that it would be a problem. He felt it would be beneficial for Council meetings to be more widely publicised. The Leader of the Council stated that the request had been received from Mr Heard on behalf of Stop Norwich Urbanisation (SNUB) and, whilst he was not opposed in principle to recordings being made, he reiterated it was important to ensure any recording was carried out independently.
The proposal to refuse permission for SNUB to video the meeting was then put to the vote and, with 23 Members voting for the proposal, 9 against, it was
RESOLVED that permission to video the meeting by SNUB be refused."
Some councillors have asked for all votes to be taken using electronic equipment that would show which way each councillor voted and the results stored in a database for anyone to access but BDC have steadfastly refused this too. Why the shyness? Where is the openess and transparency so often talked about but so seldom seen? The Guardian published an article soon after the announcement which applauded the announcement and highlighted councils who have already experimented with the idea with some success. So why not here?