27 NOVEMBER 2013
On the same day that Alrewas Parish Council was unexpectedly visited by a press photographer who wanted to cover the proceedings of an Extraordinary Meeting, Herbert Smith of the Communities, Parishes and Local Councils organisation (CPALC) wrote the following editorial:
Extending the right to blog and film town and parish council meetings can only be a good idea. The intention is obviously to highlight and rein in poor councillor behaviour. Yet I cannot help feel that this is the result of another serious misunderstanding by DCLG and its ill informed advisers. The law relating to excluding the press and public from council meetings is widely misapplied, misused and misunderstood.
Over the last fortnight I've been looking at many council's minutes on the internet. In most cases the minutes fail to record the correct resolution. Both the agendas and minutes fail to record the topic as legally required. Often all that is recorded is “Press and public excluded” this is of course wrong.
Even some large town councils who should know better appear to exclude the press and public regularly with no explanation.
I cannot help feel that if the proposed legal changes are enacted we will see the press and public excluded far more frequently from poor town and parish councils. This will of course have the opposite effect in terms of open democracy as was intended.
After all without an ombudsman just who will residents complain to? The ballot box is no remedy where the law is being flouted.