not yet in the bag, before the go ahead is given Paul Moore’s people are going to have to draw up some
sort of protocol on recording meetings to take account of a number of points
raised by the Constitutional Review Panel. Councillor Reader who made it clear
he was against any form of public involvement in recording, wanted some
protection for speakers at his planning meetings. No one said anything about
speakers at full council meetings but I suppose the same will apply to that. Council
leader Teresa O’Neill said that any children present must be protected and
councillor Ball said that junior council officers must be protected from cameras too.
Then the protocol will have to go before the full council in November and based on Tuesday’s comments, a lot of councillors are not going to like it. On the other hand, Nicholas Dowling’s little protest got Bexley council into all sorts of trouble. National news coverage and a letter from Eric Pickles. Had the decision gone the other way last Tuesday several people from out of town were prepared to repeat Nicholas’s stunt and when the meeting was adjourned and reconvened another rebel would identify himself and bring those proceedings to a halt too. Fortunately Teresa O’Neill has realised the game is up and as she rules the council and Conservative councillors are not allowed independent thought, it’s a pretty safe bet that recording will be approved.
And what happens after that?
Well nothing, I would guess. Except at planning and full council meetings it is rare to see anyone there apart from the usual suspects whose names regularly appear here. There is no obvious reason why that should change. Webcasting may even cause a decline.
I don’t think Nicholas even owns a camera and he is one of the elite, like me, who manages to get through life without owning a mobile phone. His Dictaphone is broken and he has little enough time for council meetings, let alone listening to one all over again. You can rule Nick out.
Mick Barnbrook has a mobile phone and if someone tells him which button to press he can take a photo with it; but he has yet to discover how to get the photo out of the device. We can probably rule Mick out too.
Elwyn Bryant owns an elderly Canon DSLR but is not particularly interested in taking photos of council meetings. What would he do with them? Teresa O’Neill framed on the mantelpiece is surely a perverse minority interest and certainly not Elwyn’s. So in practice scrutiny meetings are unlikely to be recorded in any shape or form.
Occasionally there is a good turn out for planning meetings and full council but planning meeting’s are generally unexciting and sometimes well over three hours long - you’d have to be mad to film them!
Full council meetings may be different, there is a bit of spectacle. The man with the mace, the mayor and her robes; if you are lucky, Will Tuckley in his wig and possibly Teresa in her tracksuit. My own plans are unchanged. When I was last refused permission to take one photograph I had promised to be totally unobtrusive. I cannot see that changing. It will be tempting to get a picture of Peter Reader for wanting to ban photography totally but most likely you will see little more than a new panorama of the assembled council as a banner at the top of this page.
The people I am in touch with are all determined to make Bexley council look as silly as possible by largely ignoring the new rules. Bexley council has been dragged into the news headlines and before the television cameras and proved themselves liars and fools. No one with any sense is going to dilute that reputation by providing Bexley’s disreputable council with any excuse for claiming they were in the right all along.
This council has been soundly defeated by the Information Commissioner who forced a climb down on the publishing of residents’ addresses on the web and now they have been totally humiliated by Nicholas Dowling and Eric Pickles over the question of recording. It should be left at that and not provided with any excuse, such as over intrusive photography, behind which Bexley council can shelter. Sorry if that disappoints you, I know that an adverse reaction to recording will be one less thing to castigate the crooked council for, but it must remain the case that the unreasonable, the disruptive and the criminally inclined sit on the council benches, not in the public gallery.
Things are definitely changing. If things carry on as they have this week, Bonkers will whither and die. I can’t really see the council leader and her gang trooping into the police station again to lie about me threatening violence and arson. She’d have to be even more stupid than I think she is to tread that path again. Neither do I expect to see a Bexley councillor lying in a witness box again, that trick gave them unwanted national publicity too.
Fortunately for those who have grown attached to Bonkers, the stream of lies to cover up incompetence and probable corruption continues unabated. Retirement is probably further away than my conversation with Tim MacFarlane (News Shopper) implies.