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News and Comment October 2012

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9 October - Do they know what they are doing?

It’s seven weeks since Eric Pickles said he wanted to see councils get themselves up to date with modern media and be more welcoming to residents at council meetings, four weeks since most of his ideas were made law and very nearly five since I asked Bexley council if I could make Mr. Pickles happy by taking a photograph or two at a council or cabinet meeting.

In the intervening weeks Bexley council has made it very clear that they see no need to change their secretive ways in the light of the Communities Secretary’s wishes…
Email extract
Personally I think this is a very good thing. I’m not terribly interested in photographing our bunch of ne’er do wells, liars, failed businessmen and would be petty criminals. There is far more fun to be had when Bexley council casts aside commonsense and presents on a silver platter yet another topic with which to drag their reputation deeper into the mire. But not everyone takes the same view and possibly my wish to see them make asses of themselves will be dashed.

Civic Centre bansWhile reinforcing their ban on photography at meetings Bexley council came up with the following statement. “I note from your email that you may wish to take photographs before proceedings begin in order to set the scene. This is permissible in accordance with the Council protocol and the Regulations.” (My emphasis.)

Well what a surprise because in the Civic Centre foyer there is (I last looked fewer than two weeks ago) a copy of the notice shown to the left. “No photography inside the building”. Exactly what one would expect of a council paranoid about its activities becoming any more widely known than absolutely necessary which now looks as though it may have no ‘legal’ justification whatsoever.

I shall stick with my original request to restrict photography to before the occasional cabinet and council meeting but others think the “protocol and regulations” should be used sooner and more widely. Mr. Bryant has asked to be able to use his camera before this evening’s Public Realm meeting and photograph me, notebook in hand. So you may soon see me embarrassed in a way I have promised not to inflict on councillors. Or maybe I’ll be reporting on Elwyn being led away in handcuffs by Bexley council’s obedient servants. One must never trust the word of anyone at Bexley council.

It is unlikely that a report on this evening’s Public Realm meeting will appear until Thursday for, as Teresa O’Neill might say, “Personal Reasons”. Instead a Blue Peter blog will appear, one that I made earlier.


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