Local councillors mainly silent as HPBC refuse to allow meetings to be recorded

High Peak Borough Council has said it will not review its arrangements for recording meetings until they have received the regulations pertinent to the Local Audit and Accountability Act, effectively ensuring that none of its meetings are recorded until after the next Borough Council elections. HPBC said "Any recording of a Council committee is at the discretion of the chair of the committee". We wrote to all the chairs of HPBC committees, but only one replied.

Cllr Garry Parvin (Old Glossop, Labour; chair of Chair of the Community Select Committee) said "I, personally have no objections. I imagine there would have to change in the councils standing orders  / constitution". He said he would check 11 days ago, any reply received will be included here.

We also wrote to HPBC specifically requesting permission to record the Development Control Committee meeting scheduled for today (7th July 2014). The chair of that committee, Cllr David Mellor (Hayfield, Independent) had previously refused to allow meetings to be recorded, and this one is no exception. HPBC said "Councillor Mellor, as the chair of the committee has been consulted on your request. Any recording of a Council committee is at the discretion of the chair of the committee. Councillor Mellor does not feel it is appropriate to allow video or audio recording at the meeting of the development control committee next week.
The Council is aware that the government has introduced the Local Audit and Accountability Act, however we await the regulations which will bring the relevant provisions into force. As soon as we receive the regulations the Council will consider its approach and will, if necessary, review the arrangements."
We also wrote to all Glossop's councillors (leaving out Cllr Webster by mistake - see below) asking them 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. Only Cllr Gary Parvin (see above) and Cllr John Haken (Conservative, Simmondley) replied. In a spoken conversation Cllr Haken said he approved entirely of recording council meetings and had "no qualms whatsoever" about it. He cited recent meetings about the Local Plan as examples of situations that would have been "blown wide open" if recording had been allowed.
Derbyshire County Council have still not replied to our request to record their meetings. Charlesworth Parish Council will consider the request at their July meeting. Peak District National Park Authority, the only "council" that is not elected, told us that they already allow recordings of their meetings and have guidelines in place to prevent disruption and ensure that members of the public who speak at meetings and do not want to be recorded are protected.
The response from HPBC is disappointing, but not surprising. The majority of local councillors do not think their votes should be routinely recorded and evidently do not wish to be drawn into a debate about whether their behaviour at meetings should also be recorded. HPBC cannot defy the government indefinitely, but it appears that they will delay allowing meetings to be recorded for as long as they possibly can.

Update 7 July 11:30, responding to the question "Do you agree that the press should have the right to record parts of council meetings that the press and public are not excluded from?" on the Glossop Facebook group Cllr Edward Siddall (Labour, Hadfield South) said "I have just got your email I don't see an issue with recording public meetings, part 2 one can be recorded but it needs to be kept in part 2 until we make the final decision as it could give contractors who are bidding for council services a competitive advantage. We also need to be careful with people's personal information. Not such a big issue for HPBC but for DCC who look after education and social services. "

Update 7 July 13:50: Cllr Chris Webster (Old Glossop, Independent) also commented on the group "I have gone back through my emails for the past 28 days and I have not received one from you. I have no issues with recording meetings and in some of them it could well be of interest to the public. Time and time again I sit a listen to Members saying one thing then voting with the whip. On the down side, there are several sensitive issues that would need to be discussed in private and for these I doubt it would be possible to continue recording. These issues could be dealt with under a part 2 agenda but I suspect some Members would be wanting to put everything into part 2."
[Cllr Webster was accidentally excluded from the email sent by Glossop Gazette to councillors, apologies to him for the mistake]

18th July: Caitlin Bisknell (Labour, Stone Bench), the leader of HPBC said ""I have passed your comments on to officers and asked them to respond to you directly" - full story here


Earlier story http://glossopgazette.co.uk/latest-news/940-glossop-gazette-asks-for-permission-to-make-video-and-audio-recording-of-all-hpbc-meetings

Picture of fat-blocked sewer courtesy of United Utilities

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