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Bexley Council 'considering' new local government transparency laws
BEXLEY Council has said it is considering new law changes aimed at bringing greater openness to council proceedings.
Government ministers have put regulations before Parliament extending people's rights to attend all meetings of a council's executive, committees and subcommittees.
Local government secretary Eric Pickles has announced all decisions, including those affecting budgets and local services, will have to be taken in an open and public forum once the changes come into force this month.
A statement from Bexley Council said: "The London Borough of Bexley is totally supportive of legitimate political debate and will be considering the recent changes to regulations surrounding public council meetings."
The council has a standing order banning the public from filming or recording council meetings, which was flouted by outspoken blogger John Kerlen in June last year.
Bexley Council would not disclose whether Mr Kerlen, who blogs under the name Olly Cromwell, remains banned from meetings after the incident in which he tried to film a gathering in the chamber.
A spokeswoman said: "This is a matter between Mr Kerlen and ourselves."
As reported in News Shopper Mr Kerlen last month successfully appealed a conviction for posting "grossly offensive and menacing" tweets about a councillor, though a restraining order remains in place forbidding him from contacting the councillor or his family.
Under the new regulations the existing definition of "media" will be broadened to cover organisations providing internet news.
This means local authorities will be obliged to provide reasonable facilities for members of the public to report proceedings as well as accredited newspapers.
But a Bexley Council spokeswoman would not be drawn on whether the prohibition on filming or recording or Mr Kerlen's ban will be rescinded.
She said: "Any concerns over behaviour during council meetings raised by the London Borough of Bexley or any resulting ban is a private matter between the individual and the council.
"The standing order banning filming or recording at meetings will be reviewed when the new regulations are looked at in detail."
After the changes councils will no longer be able to cite political advice as justification for closing a meeting to the public and press.