In a joint letter, the tutors from Leeds Trinity, Leeds Metropolitan and the University of Leeds tell councillors that “it can only be to the benefit of Members (councillors) to ensure that the process of decision making is transparent”.
“To be fully informed residents need to know not only the decisions reached, but also the discussion that leads to these conclusions,” they say. “More than ever Members bear heavy responsibility for representing residents, businesses and institutions, and we believe they should be both seen and heard making those representations.”
The letter coincides with the publication of a draft protocol on the issue by the council, which recommends that there be NO videoing allowed at the council’s public meetings, and limits the kind of public meetings where audio recordings would be allowed.
The protocol is being discussed at a meeting of the council’s General Purposes Committee next Monday (28th October).
“We would … urge that Members should allow recording of audio and video by any interested party in all circumstances in which the press and public currently have a right to attend meetings”, the letter says, and goes on to list some basic safeguards around how the recorded material could be captured, presented and edited.
No-one asked for views
The council 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.
With no policy in place, requests to record have been handled up to now by council committees on an ad hoc basis. Some requests to make audio recordings have been turned down, others granted.
In their joint letter, the journalism lecturers make a specific plea for allowing video recordings to be made, urging councillors to “reflect on their own expectations, especially of web-based news reports”.
From the papers prepared for next week’s council meeting it appears that no-one who might be interested in doing the recording – from the local media, independent news publishers, the public or the local universities – has been asked for their view.
There’s consultation for you.