Last October, a TaxPayers' Alliance report that I authored highlighted those councils in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire that were preventing residents from recording, blogging, and tweeting at council meetings. Eric Pickles then announced these rights would soon be enshrined in law. This is what he had to say:
A recent report from the Tax Payers’ Alliance revealed an alarming number of councils in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire who were still keeping democracy behind closed doors. Some councils had even banned local residents from recording, blogging and tweeting at council meetings. Ministers believe these councils are clinging to outdated analogue ideals in the face of a digital age.
Good news! Today the Local Audit and Accountability Act (where these rights are contained) received Royal Assent! When I attended a full council meeting of my local council recently, I was reminded that I couldn't record proceedings. At the next meeting, I will enjoy using my new rights to record and report what's happening in the council chamber.
For those councils who are already open, this new law will not affect them, but for those who have been determined to prevent residents from becoming citizen journalists, they are in for a rude awakening.
It is also appropriate that these new rights come into force this week, as this is my last week as National Grassroots Coordinator for the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA). Next Monday I take up a new role as Campaign Manager for The Freedom Association. It has been a wonderful journey since June 2009 when I first became involved with the TPA and set-up the Hull & East Riding Branch. I have met and have worked with some wonderful people over those years - many of whom are good friends. Rest assured though that I will not be giving up the fight for lower taxes. That's in my DNA!