Three Chairs refuse permission to record High Peak Borough Council meetings

Three HPBC councillors have refused permission for meetings they chair to be recorded in the last two weeks. Cllrs Alan Barrow, Gary Parvin and David Mellor refused to allow recording at meetings of Full Council, Community Select Committee and Development Control Committee. The situation will change entirely in three weeks, when the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 come into force. From August 6th 2014 onwards permission will no longer be required from the Chairs of meetings to record them. Until then HPBC seem determined to keep recording devices out of their meetings.

 

The Glossop Gazette was not allowed to record the the full High Peak Borough Council meeting that took place last night (15th July 2014). The meeting included the latest updates to the local plan saga. Councillor Alan Barrow (New Mills East, Labour), Mayor of High Peak Borough Council, ignored a request from the Glossop Gazette to record the meeting. In a telephone conversation Councillor Barrow said that he hadn't replied because he was awaiting a reply question from other councillors and officers. He said that he personally had no objections to being filmed but that his position as mayor meant that if he gave permission it would set a precedent that other chairs might feel obliged to follow. He said he would give a full explanation when he had received a response from other councillors and officers. 

Earlier in the week Councillor Gary Parvin (Labour, Old Glossop) refused a request to record the Community Select Committee meeting on Monday. Writing to the Glossop Gazette after the meeting Cllr Parvin said (unedited response): "The council are creating a policy to ensure that  the council complies with: The council should consider adopting a policy on the filming of members of the public speaking at a meeting, such as allowing those who actively object to being filmed not to be filmed, without undermining the broader transparency of the meeting. My position remains the same,  that I have no concerns about being filmed - I fear for the poor public being subject to my mug - but that is a different matter!- I just want to ensure that its applied with consistency." We asked Cllr Parvin to confirm that the decision to not allow recording of the meeting was made by him. He replied: "This was my decision.
For clarification
1.  I am a democrat,  who wishes to see our democratic process open, transparent and demystified and hence support the filming of executive, council and other select committees.  I am delighted that Cllrs Webster and Haken also support this move.
2.  Most meetings are held in public and I would encourage Glossopdale residents to attend.   
3.  I want this experience to be as pleasant and non intrusive and nor put people off from  as possible hence my belief that the council needs to develop a clear policy about this to ensure that councillors and the public alike are clear about expectations. For example: as a courtesy to those members of the public who may be attending the meeting but do not wish to be recorded, the I would want reasonable advance notice of filming, videoing, photography or audio recording. This will allow me as Chair of the meeting to ensure any request by a member of the public not to be recorded is considered.
4.  Once this policy is in place this will allow  1.  the council to film proceedings or 2. members of the public and interested parties.  "

A week earlier Cllr David Mellor (Hayfield, Independent) had refused permission to make recordings of the Development Control Committee meetings held on 7th July. According to am email from a council officer, "Councillor Mellor does not feel it is appropriate to allow video or audio recording at the meeting of the development control committee".

We asked all local councillors if they agreed that the press should have the right to record parts of council meetings that the press and public were not excluded from, but only received four replies. Just two councillors; Chris Webster (Old Glossop, Independent) and John Haken (Simmondley, Conservative) were unambiguously in favour of recording meetings.

Glossop Gazette has a policy of not publishing anything that cannot be proved irrefutably. We almost always rely on written replies to questions because it eliminates the risks of misunderstanding, misinterpreting or decontextualising what people say. When reporting council meetings it is impossible to keep an accurate record who said what, or of how councillors voted without recording the meetings. If we were accused of misrepresenting anybody, we would have no proof to support our claims. The constitution of HPBC allows the recording of meetings with the permission of the chair, but as far as the editor can establish, such permission has never been given. When the new regulations come into force we will have the right to record meetings regardless of the opinion of the chair of the meeting.

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