Councils live on film and tweets after new act is passed
COUNCIL meetings are to be “opened to the digital age” after the passing of a new act allowing citizens to tweet, record and film during them.
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 was today signed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, pictured, giving people the right to use social media from the council chambers and broadcasters to film meetings.
The move has been welcomed by Nuthall Parish Councillor Stephen Green, the first person in Britain with Downs Syndrome to be elected on to a parish council.
Mr Green has been campaigning for recordings to be allowed in meetings so he can record agenda items that answered questions from residents to play back to them.
Nuthall Parish Council had said that unless a formal application was made in writing, recording would not be allowed. Mr Green said: “I am really happy that this will be law now. It means I can help more people and do more during council meetings.”
His father, Grenville Green, said the new law was “a big step” for local politics.
“We have strongly campaigned for this and now it is law,” he said. “It is great news. Now residents will be able to see what they do. We might even try to stream a meeting on the internet.”
But not everyone has voiced the same enthusiasm.
When it was first proposed by the Secretary of State in April, the clerk of Stapleford Town Council, Margaret Downie, wrote to him asking why they had not been consulted. And speaking to The Post as the law came into force, Ms Downie commented: “It is now law so I will be writing a standing order to cover this and it will be discussed at the next council meeting.
“But I feel it wasn’t properly consulted on, either with the Association of Local Council Clerks or with town and parish councils themselves.
“The meetings are already transparent and open to the public.
“But also with the small budgets town and parish councils have to operate on, they could have given advice on how to best implement it.”
But Mr Pickles was adamant the new rules would be good for local democracy and the public.
He said: “There is now no excuse for any council not to allow these new rights. Parliament has changed the law, to allow a robust and healthy local democracy.
“This will change the way people see local government and allow them to view close up the good work that councillors do.”