Normally I don’t approve of the judgements of Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, the man Westminster jokes is so much larger than life that he can be spotted on Google Earth. However in a blog for Conservative Home last week http://bit.ly/i1cKAV the scourge of local government bureaucrats penned an article backing the idea that councils should open the doors to bloggers and citizen journalists who should be able to tweet and film to their heart’s content. He of course cited outrageous Labour councils who had banned this. He also praised the work of Maidenhead and Windsor council .
He wrote: ” Conservative-run Windsor and Maidenhead recently decided to allow members of the public to video local meetings. This week, I wrote to councils encouraging them to follow suit, opening up public discussions to all forms of multimedia. Citizen journalists have as much right as anyone to attend and to share their views, and council ‘monitoring officers’ shouldn’t hide behind bogus concerns about ‘data protection’ or ‘human rights’.
He goes on to describe this new freedom right back to the Blessed Margaret Thatcher who introduced the right of the press and public to attend council meeting way back in 1960.Isn’t it then doubly ironic that tomorrow night (March 1) Barnet Council, whose citizens returned the former Tory leader to Westminster, should be doing the very thing that Eric Pickles deplores.
This Tory controlled council has banned videos by the public of the public council meeting saying it is ” against the council’s constitution” and I am told people can be ejected if they are caught tweeting , even though councillors are free to do so.
Indeed bloggers are not welcome at all. Lynne Hillan, leader of the council, told the Barnet Times:
“The only thing we will do is consider responsible media requests, and they are the only thing we would allow at this stage. If we had a request I would expect an officer to approach me about it. I do not think we would consider a request from bloggers . Only respectable media would be considered.”
This dinosaur attitude from a Queen Canute is breathtaking. Her ignorance about how the modern world works is absurd. Presumably her next step as Barnet leader will be to table a motion condemning Lady Thatcher for allowing the public by law to attend council meetings.
The best riposte to her comes from the mouth of Eric Pickles himself. ” When councils make these sorts of petty decisions, at best they look foolish and out of touch; at worst they look like they have something to hide.”
Need I say more. You can. E-mail her with your views at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone her direct on 0208 359 2059. Her fax is: 020 889 7464.
Update: Barnet kept its word in blocking bloggers and filming at the council last night by employing some rather heavy looking security guards to limit who could get a seat to hear the council introduce cuts and higher parking. According to Mrs Angry, a blogger who did get in, they appeared to be able to overrule local police officers. See her report and pix of the heavy bouncers employed by the Tory council on her blog at http://bit.ly/i13ngn