New rules allowing council meetings to be filmed will put an end to local government mirroring ‘Putin’s Russia’, according to Eric Pickles.
The communities secretary said the changes – to be made next month under the Local Audit and Accountability Act – would ‘unlock the mysteries of local government, providing more transparency over how councils use taxpayers' money’.
The move follows incidents where journalists and local people were apparently ejected from council meetings for attempting to tweet or record proceedings.
Mr Pickles was quoted in The Independent saying: ‘Half a century ago, a Private Member's Bill by Margaret Thatcher opened up council meetings to the press and public. But these analogue rights need to be updated for a digital age – there is no legal right to blog, tweet or film a council meeting. This unhappy situation is epitomised by the average episode of Grand Designs, when the doors are slammed shut on the cameras if they want to film the planning committee.
‘How can we criticise Putin's Russia for suppressing freedom of the press when, up and down the land, police are threatening to arrest people for reporting a council meeting with digital media?’
The new rules give the public greater rights to report from council meetings using filming, social media, photography and any other means.
It is not the first time Mr Pickles has compared local government with President Putin. Earlier this year he said local authority newspapers were like ‘town hall pravdas’ with a record ‘only Putin would be proud of’.