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Bexley Council could allow the public to film freely at meetings
BEXLEY Council may be about to allow members of the public to film and record freely at its meetings.
Members of the Constitution Review Panel will meet for the first time in more than two years this evening to decide whether to permit the practice at the next full meeting of the council on November 6.
Council officers have recommended the move to the six-strong panel and also suggested members agree in principle to webcast up to 80 hours of meetings starting from the first gathering of the new council following elections in May next year.
By that time Bexley Council will have moved to new offices in Watling Street just down the road from its current home at the Civic Centre in Bexleyheath.
The Constitution Review Panel last met on April 27, 2011, when it was agreed “detailed options on the method of webcasting will be developed in due course.”
It is now thought the cost of webcasting of cabinet, full council and planning committee meetings would cost between £14,000 and £20,000 a year.
Members of the public wanting to film, audio record or photograph meetings currently have to submit a written request to the chairman of any meeting before it takes place.
If the panel agrees to allow filming without prior consent, it will be subject to a series of conditions and the chairman of the meeting will have the authority to decide whether they have been broken and ban any filming if so.
Any activities judged to be causing a disturbance would be stopped and members of the public asked not to edit footage in a way “that may ridicule or show a lack of respect” to those being filmed or misrepresent a council decision.
It is not clear whether third party filming would still be allowed if the council starts webcasting meetings at its new home from May next year.
Guidance from communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles has recently challenged Bexley Council’s position on filming.
His deputy Brandon Lewis accused the council of wasting police time over the decision to call in officers after a member of the public was asked to leave a meeting on June 19 for trying to audio record proceedings.
The Constitution Review Panel meets at 7.30pm in the Civic Centre this evening.
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