Government Clarifies Rules Over Public Access To Council meetings

Council chambers at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

Council chambers at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

The government has clarified your rights to accessing Council information and attending Council meetings.

New guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government says that you are entitled to record or photograph councillors making decisions or debating issues in the Council chamber if you want to.

Secretary of State Eric Pickles has highlighted a recent edition of the TV programme Grand Designs where the film crew were excluded from a mainland planning meeting and could not show the members reaching a decision.

Press officer George Pearson says the Council of the Isles of Scilly welcomes the government’s statement. He says that our Council was one of the first in the country to start web casting.

George says they’re committed to using technology to aid residents’ involvement in democracy, but the council would want prior notification of members and officers that taping or filming is taking place.

The government says you should point that out as a matter of courtesy.

Recently, discussion points and agenda items have been introduced for debate in Council meetings at the last minute, some without written reports.

The government say the Council must give the public notice of any meetings at least five days before and meeting details must be published on their website.

Background papers must also be published with the agenda and no item can be considered if it is not available for view five days before the meeting.

Councils must give 28 days notice of its intention to consider a matter in private and give the reasons for the holding the meeting being closed doors. That’s so locals can have time to challenge the public exclusion.

If a secret session is so urgent that the required notice period can’t be given, then a senior member, like the chairman or vice chairman has to publish the reason why the meeting is so urgent and why the public can’t attend.