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Cameras to roll at Bexley Council meetings after panel decision
THEY may not draw an audience quite as big as the Great British Bake Off, but cameras could soon be allowed in to Bexley Council meetings.
The Constitutional Review Panel unanimously voted last night to recommend to the next full council meeting on November 6 that members of the public be allowed to film, photograph and audio record meetings without prior permission.
Six councillors, including leader of the council Councillor Teresa O’Neill, also approved plans to webcast meetings once the council moves to its new home in Watling Street, Bexleyheath, following elections in May next year.
Up to 80 hours of cabinet, full council and planning committee meetings could be filmed each year at a cost of between £14,000 and £20,000 to install the electrical equipment required and to carry out the webcasting.
Cllr Peter Craske spoke in favour of both allowing third party filming and the principle of streaming meetings over the web come May 2014.
The Blackfen and Lamborey ward councillor said: “We could go home and watch ourselves talking at meetings afterwards.
“They say politics is show business for ugly people so what an exciting prospect that is.
"I think we should be more open about these things so people can see exactly what their councillors do when they are elected and the way they make decisions.
“This is not going to compete with the Great British Bakeoff for viewers. Let’s be realistic it’s not going to get a huge viewership but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.”
Police were called after Nicholas Dowling tried to audio record a bexley Council meeting in June.
Cllr Colin Campbell voiced reservations about the cost of webcasting and Cllr Sharon Massey, attending the meeting in the public gallery, questioned whether third party filming should be allowed without a “master copy” of proceedings.
But filming by members of the public and webcasting were both approved despite Cllr Teresa O’Neill saying it was never an issue raised to her by the public.
She said afterwards: “I think that was a really good debate last night.
“If that meeting was recorded and anyone tuned into it I think they would have seen the council really doing good work as we do on a daily basis.”
Labour spokesman and panel member Cllr Chris Ball added: “Allowing filming at council meetings is long overdue and I am pleased we will also look at webcasting.
"This is a step in the right direction to make the council more transparent to the public.
"Let’s hope it sparks interest in the work we do.”
Guidance from communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles has recently challenged Bexley Council’s position on filming, which required would-be Spielbergs to make a written request to film in advance of any meeting.
Mr Pickles’ 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.
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