Thomas Bridge 06 August 2014

Pickles opens public meetings to filming

A new law allowing the public to film, record and tweet from council meetings will support 'healthy local democracy', according to communities secretary Eric Pickles.

A Parliamentary order signed by Pickles opens the doors of public meetings to broadcasters, national and local press, bloggers and the wider public.

Recent incidents have seen English local authorities calling for police to arrest individuals caught trying to report, tweet or film council meetings. Councillors have even been ejected from meetings for trying to record discussions surrounding airport expansion.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the new law would aim to 'end active resistance amongst some councils to greater openness'.

Pickles added: 'Local democracy needs local journalists and bloggers to report and scrutinise the work of their council, and increasingly, people read their news via digital media.

'The new "right to report" goes hand in hand with our work to stop unfair state competition from municipal newspapers - together defending the independent free press.

'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.'

Welcoming the news, Isle of Wight Council said it considered the Government's recognition of digital and social media 'a step forward'.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'Democracy cannot live behind closed doors, so today is a significant step forward in opening up local government to public scrutiny.'

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