Moves to support Twitter-friendly council meetings get industry thumbs-up

LGcommunications has stood in solidarity with new government moves to stop local authorities banning the public from tweeting or filming at council meetings.

Eric Pickles: Pushing for transparency
Eric Pickles: Pushing for transparency

The organisation’s chairman Cormac Smith urged local authorities to follow the new regulations introducing the general ‘right to report’ from such meetings. 

The new measures kicked in yesterday and follow a number of rows during which local newspapers in North Wales and Stamford were banned from tweeting or blogging at council meetings.  

Smith said: "We encourage the small number of authorities that resist the use of digital technology to become more transparent, but councils need to make decisions that are good for their people.

"LGcomms' view has always been to encourage greater openness and constructive working relationships with all of the media including local bloggers. When and where it happens we are also delighted to see greater public interest and engagement in local democracy. This is also something we actively encourage."

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has singled out Wirral Council for particular criticism for stopping the filming of a planning meeting on "health and safety grounds" using reasoning the minister described as "spurious".

Earlier this week, introducing the parliamentary order aimed at allowing digital communications in particular, Pickles 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."

However, Joe Blott, strategic director for transformation and resources at Wirral Council, defended its stance.

Stating that the council’s meetings were "regularly" filmed and tweeted about by the public, he added that it was necessary "to consider the feelings of members of the public who might be involved in proceedings, and who may or may not wish to be filmed."

Eleri Roberts, head of campaigns at Westminster City Council, was not surprised by the introduction of the regulation. 

She said: "A lot of councils use web casting and are happy to have filming at meetings, providing it doesn’t disrupt proceedings, particularly in small spaces."

LGcommunications acts as the representative body for local government PRs. 

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