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News and Comment October 2012

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3 October (Part 3) - Negotiations in progress

Dept. for Communities web pageFollowing the changes announced by the Communities Department which came into force on 10th September John Kerlen lost no time in requesting permission to video a council meeting. Each to his own, I can think of few things worse than witnessing a council meeting more than once.

Bexley council was equally quick off the mark to say that what Eric Pickles might wish for has no bearing on what happens in London’s most secretive borough.

I tried a lower key approach than John Kerlen’s and on 6th September submitted proposals to Bexley council. I said I did not plan to bring video or audio recording equipment to their meetings, neither would I use Twitter but I would like to be able to take the occasional photograph. The relevant paragraph was…

I do not expect to be threatened with arrest for bringing a camera into the council chamber again as has happened previously. I frequently carry a camera and will in future do so when attending council meetings. However I would not expect to use it during a meeting except in the most exceptional circumstances. I have in mind things like a fire alarm, police presence or the expulsion of a member of the public. I might occasionally wish to use a camera before the meeting to set the overall scene inside the chamber but only with an ultra wide angle lens. I would not feel comfortable aiming a long lens at individual councillors and do not expect to do so. It might not be necessary to take 'scene setters' more than a handful of times, too many and they would all look the same. I would never use flash and in all probability the novelty of photography would soon wear off and not become the norm.

Cabinet meetingIt has provoked an interesting correspondence which is not yet concluded. The response included the council’s usual diatribe a version of which is trotted out by all their worst chairmen at their meetings…

“The Council has an agreed protocol on behaviour at meetings. The protocol was agreed by the Council on 14 April 2010 (†) and requires permission from the Mayor/Chairman for any audio or visual recording of proceedings. This protocol is consistent with recently issued Regulations. Nothing in these Regulations requires a decision-making body to permit the taking of photographs of any proceedings or the recording of any proceedings.”

As bad and as unmoving that Bexley’s standard reply may appear to be the correspondence is not entirely inflexible. A compromise cannot yet be ruled out. Watch this space.

† It was 2011 actually. Photograph pre-dates council ban on photography


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