UK government does something right

UK government does something right

The UK’s dreadful, destructive coalition government has done something right – for a change.

As part of the forthcoming Local Audit and Accountability Bill, which will be debated by MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, new rights will be granted to the press and citizens to film and report council meetings, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has announced.

In 2012 the government changed secondary legislation to open up councils’ executive meetings to the press and public. However, this did not apply to councils’ committee meetings or full council, nor to parish councils. Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, asked councils to open up their committee meetings, but many councils are still not complying. Many councils, particularly in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire are still keeping democracy behind closed doors. Some councils had even banned local residents from recording, blogging and tweeting at council meetings. Ministers believe these councils are clinging to outdated analogue ideals in a digital age.

Mr Pickles said: “An independent local press and robust public scrutiny is essential for a healthy local democracy. We have given councils more power, but local people need to be able to hold their councils to account. I want to do more to help the new cadre of hyper-local journalists and bloggers.

“I asked for councils to open their doors, but some have slammed theirs shut, calling in the police to arrest bloggers and clinging to old-fashioned standing orders.

“This new right will be the key to helping bloggers and tweeters as well as journalists to unlocking the mysteries of local government and making it more transparent for all. My department is standing up for press freedom.”

BCC council chamber
The council chamber in Bristol’s Counts Louse (aka City Hall © G. Ferguson)

Here in Bristol, the council is well ahead of Mr. Pickles. Meetings have been webcast for years and members of the public and elected councillors freely tweet proceedings from the Counts Louse.

Author: Steve Woods

Generic carbon-based humanoid life form.