A draft protocol that’s just been issued on the recording of council meetings says as much, and adds that permission won’t be granted either to make audio recordings of planning or licensing committee meetings that are open to the public.
The new protocol is going to be discussed at a meeting of the council’s General Purposes Committee a week on Monday (28th October).
Requests to make audio recordings of meetings of the council’s decision-making executive will be routinely granted.
“In respect to third party recording of meetings, the protocol sets out that requests made to Executive Board to audio record meetings will be routinely granted, but that requests to film meetings be not granted as there is the inherent likelihood, due to the restrictions of room layout and public accessibility to the meeting, of filming being disruptive or distracting to the meeting,” says a report prepared for the meeting.
The protocol is effectively Leeds’ response to guidance issued this year by local government secretary Eric Pickles, which says councils should allow the recording and filming of public meetings .
Although the proposed new rules appear to have been discussed by a wide range of council people – from the chief exec to whips of political groups to trade union representatives – there’s no indication in the report that the views of those wanting to do the recording have been sought.
If it’s good enough for Westminster …
Journalist and Leeds Trinity University lecturer Richard Horsman expressed some disappointment at the draft.
“It’s good to see that Leeds City Council are getting to grips with the issue and seem to be comfortable with the idea of audio recording. It’s a shame they haven’t fully come to terms with video,” he said this afternoon.
“The valid concerns they raise over distraction, representation and so on, or the identification of officers involved in enforcement proceedings, can be dealt with through common sense and through the application of simple protocols I outline in my own submission to Council on this issue – in particular incorporating the principles of the BBC Editorial Guidelines on the coverage of Parliament.
“If it’s good enough for Westminster it should be good enough for Leeds Civic Hall.”
Planning and licensing
While the protocol was being drafted, requests to record were being handled meeting by meeting. Some requests to make audio recordings were turned down, others were granted. There was one request to make a video recording.
Interestingly enough, at yesterday’s session of the council’s main planning panel, the panel’s chair, Cllr Neil Taggart, opened the meeting by saying that he was in favour of letting people film and record.
No doubt by next week’s meeting he’ll have been brought on message. Here’s the argument they’re using to not allow any recording of what are known as ‘regulatory meetings’ – planning and licensing to you and me.
“A significant concern expressed by members (councillors) has been that little assurance has been provided that recordings would not be used out of context or edited in such a way as to not represent an accurate record of proceedings – particularly in circumstances where decisions might be more prone to appeal, judicial review or public inquiry,” the report says.
“Members have commented that the guidance issued by DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) has not sufficiently explored these issues (indeed the guidance has only been issued in relation to meetings of the Executive) and, until further detailed consideration has been given to them by DCLG, there should be no permissions granted to record regulatory committee meetings”.