My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Councillor Ian Driver – Statement Regarding Thanet Council Scrutiny Meeting on 19 November

On 19th November I approached the Chair of the TransEuropa Task and Finish Group, Conservative Councillor Jo Gideon before the meeting had started to request that I be allowed to film the meeting.

I presented her with my credentials – a copy of a current UK Press Card issued by the National Union of Journalist. These credentials meet the requirements of Thanet Council’s new policy covering the filming of meetings which was agreed by the Council on 3 October (1)
Despite having the proper credentials Councillor Gideon ruled that I could not film the meeting. She also ruled that I be not allowed to speak at the meeting.

I was extremely surprised by Councillor Gideon’s response. Within the last week Thanet Conservative MP Laura Sandys had urged the Council to permit filming of meetings by the public. Just one day before the meeting of the Scrutiny TransEuropa Task and Finish Group, the Thanet Council Conservative Group issued a press release which stated that they “agree to the live streaming and public filming of council meetings”.
In the 24 hours which had elapsed since this statement was issued the Conservative Group had either changed its mind about filming of Council meetings, or Councillor Gideon had forgotten what her Party policy was on this matter.

Having been refused permission to film even though I met the Council’s filming criteria I decided to film the meeting secretly. Unfortunately I was discovered and was asked to leave the meeting. I politely refused to do so as my rights as a properly accredited person under the terms of Thanet Council’s Constitution had been abused by Councillor Gideon.
By refusing to leave the meeting I was following the advice I had been given by Brandon Lewis MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Communities and Local Government who in a letter to me said thatyou shouldopenly challenge your council to welcome those who want to bring local news stories to a wider audiencethrough, for example,filming and taking photographs”.

I am at a loss to understand why, whilst hundreds of Councils across the country are endorsing “digital democracy and welcoming the public filming their meetings, Thanet Council continues to adopt an old-fashioned, medieval approach.
Dartford District Council recently told me that it “welcomes the filming and relay of proceedings” which provides “huge benefits in better, and deeper, engagement between this local authority and the community it serves”.

Why can’t Thanet Council adopt such a positive and welcoming approach? Why do they have to insist on secrecy? What do they have to hide?
Notes

1.   Part 5 of Thanet Council’s Constitution, Filming of Council Meetings  sates that  

Requests to film Council Committee meetings will only be granted to accredited

media representatives. The definition of an accredited media organisation is as follows:

“a media organisation or individual that holds a National Press Card and is registered

with the Press Complaints Commission (or its successor) or a similar regulated body

with a code of conduct and associated complaints process through which the Council

could take recourse”.

2.   Filming at Council meeting the facts.

·        The Government has issued advice to all Councils advising them to allow the public to film meetings

·        The law will be changed in 2015 to force those Council’s not already doing so, to allow the public to film Council meetings.

·        Thanet and Swale Councils are the only 2 Councils (out of 13) in Kent not to allow the public to film meetings

·        The national leadership of the Conservative, Lib-Dem and Labour all support the filming of Council meetings but the leadership of the Thanet Conservative and Labour Parties

·        Anti-government corruption watchdog Transparency International endorsed the filming of Council meetings in its latest report on corruption in UK local government.

·        The Tax Payers Alliance supports the filming of Council meetings

·        2 members of the public have been thrown out of Thanet Council meetings in the past year and I have also be thrown out on one occasion

·        I am facing a costly investigation (estimated £6,000) for taking photographs of 2 councillors who were about to have a fight in contravention of old fashioned anti-filming rules
Letter from Brandon Lewis MP 

THANET DISTRICTCOUNCIL - FILMING AT MEETING

Thank you for your email of 4 October to the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP about filming the meetings of your Council.Your letter has been forwarded to me and I am replying as it falls within my ministerial responsibilities .

I note your concerns about your Council'sdecision not to allow local people to film and photograph its meetings, but as I explainedin my letter to you in April this year , I cannot commenton this matter as the Government cannot intervene in thedecisions councils take because councilsare directly accountable to their local people.

 Nonetheless, I wouldlike to remark that our message is transparency and openness should be the underlying principle behind everything councilsdo, and members should not shy away from letting their local people see how they are arrivingat their decisions.Therefore preventing local people, particularly citizen journalists,  from filming or taking photographs at council publicmeetings can only weaken local people's confidence in local democracy and their elected representatives .

The guidance, recentlyissued, highlights that councils are required by law to provide reasonablefacilities for any member of the public to report on meetings. It also recommends that those wishingto film or take photographs should inform their councils before the start of the council meeting.

Councils should be at the forefront of promoting transparency and openness and this means that you should openlychallenge your councilto welcome those who want to bring local news stories to a wider audiencethrough, for example,filming and taking photographs. Councils who resist this transparency and openness shouldexpect open criticismfrom us and the public.

8 comments:

  1. Yet another example of the pathetic state of the Tory 'opposition' at TDC. Makes you wonder why people are voting UKIP. Gideon should hang her head in shame. Bayford should resign. Hart should go on a very long holiday

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  2. Are you

    " registered with the Press Complaints Commission (or its successor) or a similar regulated body

    with a code of conduct and associated complaints process through which the Council

    could take recourse”."

    Ian?

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  3. They should all RESIGN. Even the BBC reports how corrupt they are. Can't be wrong can they? If it was false, the council would surely challenge opposition and threaten legal action on behalf of it's organisation or members. Because they don't do it and cannot prove otherwise naturally exposes how corrupt they really are!

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  4. Official records not trusted, independent neither. How can open debate work without trust, perhaps the open chamber came about because you can't rely on third party versions of events. Vested interests seem to rule against decision making in the common good. Filming can only capture expression and emphasis over a written record, but all can be skewed/edited. Verifying the characters of those taking decisions before they are let loose to do so might be better.

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  5. Gideon allows the likes of her mate Ken Gregory to speak but stops Ian Driver.

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  6. I am confused. Bayford says allow filming. Gideon then refuses and Gregory backs her on his blog. Today the Conservatives announce they support exactly what we need; an independent standards committee with some teeth. Has Gideon taken leave of her senses or is this a case of Bayford pretending to appease the public while getting Gideon to sweep the ferry disaster under the carpet to avoid him any embarrassment. Of course Gregory wouldn't want any scrutiny either. Had thought that Gideon had some brain cells. How wrong you can be. That's three that need to resign.

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  7. Gideon must go. She was the same incompetent on the Airport Committee. Where do we find these third-raters?

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  8. Im just guessing but is this because Council ruling is still no filming even though Bayford says allow it? agree makes no sense.We have seen threats and rudeness, some of us have unfortunately experienced it too.

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