Scarborough Borough Council under pressure

In our report on the recording of council meetings in Yorkshire & Lincolnshire, published earlier this week, we revealed that Scarborough Borough Council does not record its meetings, doesn't allow members of the public to record meetings, and doesn't have a policy in place on members of the public blogging and tweeting at meetings. This has angered local councillor Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff. Speaking to Yorkshire Coast Radio, she said

It concerns me that Scarborough Borough Council said (in response to Freedom of Information requests) that it had no policy whatsoever on these matters. Many councils are already recording and broadcasting meetings and I don't see ant major obstacles stopping Scarborough Borough Council doing the same.

There will be those who see the recording of meetings as a unwelcome intrusion into council meetings which will be open to abuse. For too long now activist websites have been able to put their skewed slant on the conduct of SBC meetings. I am of the view that I would prefer to be judged for what I actually say than rather than what I am reported to have said.

Please bear in mind that many of our residents cannot attend council meetings. Many people have a perception that the council chamber is a closed shop that they are excluded from. I believe that those who pay for SBC should have the opportunity to see it's decision making process for themselves.

I couldn't agree more with her. Recordings of what councillors actually say is of great use to local residents. It shows exactly where they stand on the issues. Councillors should not be frightened to open themselves up to greater scrutiny if they have nothing to hide.

Cllr Donohue-Moncrieff's words did prompt the council into a reply:

While we do not have a formal policy in place about members of the media and the public tweeting and blogging from council meetings, these activities do take place and we do not place any restrictions on them.  We don't currently allow filming or voice recording at council meetings but this is currently under review and we are exploring how we can make our meetings more widely accessible in the future.

So, at the beginning of this week the council did not have a policy in place on blogging and tweeting at meetings, but now they seem to have adopted one. Members of the public can now freely blog and tweet, and the council will not stop them. Not having a policy in place doesn't mean you will not be stopped by a council officer making up the rules as they go along. Saying you will not place restrictions on them, means something different.

The council needs to go one step further and allow councillors the opportunity to debate allowing filming and voice recording at council meetings. Under review is not good enough - they need to change their policies now!

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