CHANGES IN THE LAW will introduce greater openness and transparency in executive councils meetings, which will mean all decisions including those affecting budgets and local services will have to be taken in an open and public forum.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has announced that Ministers have put new regulations before Parliament that would come into force next month to extend the rights of people to attend all meetings of a council’s executive, its committees and sub-committees.
Eric Pickles said: “Every decision a council takes has a major impact on the lives of local people so it is crucial that whenever it takes a significant decision about local budgets that affect local communities whether it is in a full council meeting or in an unheard of sub-committee it has got to be taken in the full glare of all the press and any of the public.
“Margaret Thatcher was first to pry open the doors of Town Hall transparency. Fifty years on we are modernising those pioneering principles so that every kind of modern journalists can go through those doors – be it from the daily reporter, the hyper-local news website or the armchair activist and
concerned citizen blogger – councils can no longer continue to persist with a digital divide.”
The changes will come into force on 10th September 2012. A new definition of “newspapers” includes any organisation which is systematically engaged in collecting news for use in electronic or any other format to provide news to the public by means of the internet.
Chris Taggart, of OpenlyLocal.com, which has long championed the need to open council business up to public scrutiny, said: “In a world where hi-definition video cameras are under £100 and hyperlocal bloggers are doing some of the best council reporting in the country, it is crazy that councils are prohibiting members of the public from videoing, tweeting and live-blogging their meetings.”
From 10th September, local authorities will be obliged to provide reasonable facilities for members of the public to report the proceedings as well as accredited newspapers. This will make it easier for new ‘social media’ reporting of council executive meetings thereby opening proceedings up to internet bloggers, tweeting and hyperlocal news forums.