POLICE were called to a Bexley Council meeting after a man tried to record proceedings - on a device which didn’t work.

Nicholas Dowling took an audio recorder to the public realm, community safety, economic development and regeneration overview and scrutiny committee meeting on June 19.

The 42-year-old attempted to record the 7.30pm meeting in the council chamber, citing recent guidelines issued by local government secretary Eric Pickles that local authorities should allow the public to film meetings.

But chairwoman Councillor Cheryl Bacon refused and moved the meeting to another room from which Mr Dowling and a number of other attendees were banned before having police called to the Civic Centre in Bexleyheath.

Two officers arrived nearly 45 minutes later before Mr Dowling and around five other members of the public "dispersed peacefully" to the Old Bexley Ex-Serviceman’s Club for a pint.

Mr Dowling branded the decision to eject him "preposterous".

He told News Shopper: "I just stood up and said ‘I think this guidance overrides the council’s protocol and I will continue recording’.

"Cllr Bacon threatened to eject me but I wouldn’t leave."

The Albert Road, Bexley, resident admitted he failed to capture a word of the all-too-brief meeting.

The payroll assistant said: "My recorder didn’t work anyway. The problem is it’s one of those voice activated things so because no one was speaking, nothing was being recorded."

News Shopper:

Mr Dowling and the offending recorder. 

He added: "Councillors need to stop thinking of themselves as a select little club where the members do as they please.

"To eject me for merely highlighting to them that I had every right to record their meeting indicates a fear of real accountability."

A Bexley Police spokesman said: "Police attended at 8.25pm at which time the group dispersed peacefully. No offences had been committed and there were no arrests."

Bexley Council response 

A council spokeswoman said: "We have an agreed protocol on audio and visual recording of our meetings. Such recordings are not permitted without prior approval from the chairman.

"A member of the public was asked to leave the meeting on June 19 after they were asked to stop recording on several occasions.

"Their subsequent behaviour was so disruptive that it was impossible for the meeting to continue."

"The meeting was moved to another room after the person causing the disruption refused to leave.

"We would stress again that the Department for Communities and Local Government guidance is exactly that and not legislation.

"For the time being we will be adhereing to our existing protocol of no visual or audio recording at council meetings without prior consent."