You get those days where you hear a story and even though it involves an opposition councillor, you suspect you’re not hearing the full story and decide to stick up for them. I did that yesterday when I heard Cllr Gordon Taylor on Gloucester City Council had banned the use of recording (video or sound) of a planning meeting. There was no reasoning given in the article and so I assumed that it just hadn’t been reported and on the Forum I was discussing it on (Visit Gloucestershire) I suggested we wait until we hear the full story. There must have been some reason to not allow it, some issue around a planning application or something like that. I could not see any council now just banning it out of hand, especially not a Conservative Councillor who has Eric Pickles to contend with, would they?????
Turns out that yes he did. The reporter, Mike Wilkinson from the Citizen, had tried to video the previous months meeting and while the recording was not a complete success, it seems to have got the Chairs back up as he then announced that in this meeting that recording of any kind was not allowed.
For me, this is just not on. While the Committee may have not liked it, and I do have my own reservations about the use of the video clips, I think the recording and reporting is vital to open up democracy and using digital methods is key to doing that. In this current time, I appreciate that webcasting is not necessarily a good way of spending money, but when people want to come in and record, then there should be no barriers put in place. Politicians are always fighting that battle to get people more involved and its actions like this which have a wider impact than one meeting. I hope that Cllr Taylor offers an unreserved and sincere opportunity at the soonest opportunity – perhaps allowing Mike Wilkinson to record it too.