Leeds council meeting recorded by member of the public for first time – with councillors’ blessing

Leeds-City-CouncilLeeds councillors today agreed for the first time that a recording of one of the council’s public meetings be made by a member of the public, a local blogger.

It was all very civil.

The blogger was given the opportunity to explain why he wanted the recording. The council’s legal officer explained to the meeting of one of Leeds City Council’s two local planning panels that the council would be developing a protocol on the issue. Until it did, decisions about recording were being made on a case by case basis.

Only one councillor voiced any objection when the issue was raised at the beginning of the meeting.

Every member of the public who spoke at the meeting was asked whether they minded being recorded. They all said it was fine.

“I think I speak on behalf of most members (that) we welcome that our proceedings do reach a wider audience,” Labour chair of the panel Cllr James McKenna told the meeting. “We certainly want to involve our community more, bring them into this (?place)* more, so they understand what’s happening. So we welcome that.”

The upshot is that until the council comes up with its protocol, each of its committees, panels or boards that meet in public will make their own mind up.

What might happen should a member of the public want to film a meeting (as opposed to today’s audio recording) has not been tested.

And the principle of live tweeting from meetings still needs to be tackled.

But today’s meeting has set a precedent. And it’s a bit of a turnaround from last week when no councillor spoke in favour of having a scrutiny board meeting recorded by the same blogger.

Whatever the reason for that turnaround, it does seem pretty unlikely now that any of the council’s committees, panels or boards will in future refuse to allow an audio recording to be made.

And if they do, that’s a bridge that will end up being crossed.

It’s a good step forward.

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*  My Samsung tablet is not infallible. It wasn’t clear from the recording whether Cllr McKenna said “place” or “space” or some other word, so I’ve put it in brackets and queried it. If a word is in brackets within a quote but not queried, it wasn’t spoken but inserted by me to make the meaning clearer. Just so you know.

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4 Responses to Leeds council meeting recorded by member of the public for first time – with councillors’ blessing

  1. matt says:

    I do not have a any sort of problem with opening up council meetings to be recorded and I agree it would make your reoprting more accurate. However, I don’t believe it fair that council officers and elected members are recorded in the name of openess and transparency, for the benefit of a journalist who does not publish their own details or picture and remains anonymous save for the name ‘The Leeds Citizen’. This is not a critisism, just an observation and apologies if I have missed something but surely you can see some double standards here?

    • Hey, Matt. I don’t think it’s double standards. I’m not sure how anyone would be any better off having my name or a picture of me on the blog. If you trust the source of a story, isn’t that enough? I hate those papers that publish a photo of the reporter/correspondent next to the story. Why should I care what they look like? And, call me foolhardy, but I trust stories in the papers that don’t have a byline as much as those that do.

      Having said that, when I approach people for material (including at the council) I give my name, so there’s no big mystery.

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