Updated 11am: updated Sunday 4th Feb Midday
Mr Alistair Stewart Chief Exec of Shepway District Council (SDC) has closed down the democratic right of a member of the public to film, record or take photo’s at a public council meeting.
A recording of the conversation which took place can be heard at the bottom of this blog post.
We have been informed that Mr Alistair Stewart Chief Executive of Shepway District Council (pictured) asked a member of the public who attended the Cabinet Meeting on Wednesday 31st 2018, whether it was their intention that during the meeting they intended to actually make a record through photography or some other form, as they were taking photo’s of Cabinet members and SDC Officers present in the chamber. Mr Stewart was informed by the member of the public they were just testing some cameras settings and that probably they would be recording during the meeting. The conversation continues and Mr Stewart then asks if they have made a prior request to record the meeting. They said no they had made no prior request. The discussion then leads to Mr Stewart saying he has the rules if the member of the public would like to see them. He brings the rules over to the member of the public who is “curious” to see them. Then Mr Stewart begins to read the rules. Mr Stewart goes onto say “That making any kind of recording there shall be prior notification with the intention to do so” that’s NOT the wording in SDC’s constitution, but it may have been paraphrased to give Mr Stewart the benefit of the doubt. He then asks the member of the public to stop photographing and then goes onto make clear that if the member of the public does continue then he’ll have to ask the Chairman to ask the member of the public to leave the chamber.
So the Constitution says one needs to give “prior notification” to the Head of Democratic Services & Law Amandeep Khroud (pictured) of one’s “intention to report on a meeting” regardless of you being a member of the press or public. So have the Folkestone & Hythe Express Reporters and the Folkestone Herald reporters given prior notification, and is once suffice, or is prior notification necessary before every meeting to “report” from the chamber?
Now the legislation which governs recording/reporting of meetings are the
Neither of these pieces of legislation “requires” a member of the public to give “prior notification” to SDC about reporting on a meeting; which means
“filming, photographing or making audio recordings of proceedings at the meeting; using any other means for enabling persons, not present, to see or hear proceedings at the meeting, as it takes place, or later; or reporting or providing commentary on proceedings at the meeting, in writing, or orally, outside or after the meeting.”
Now according to Simon Goacher, formerly head of legal and democratic services at Cheshire West and Cheshire Council, and now of Weightmans law firm, he states:
Now that is unequivocal in our eyes that “prior notification” is not necessary. So why did Mr Stewart state that it was a requirement?
Now it is not just Mr Goacher who says that you do not require permission. Dartford Council’s Policy-on-Recording-Filming-etc-Council-meetings states a page 3 para 7 that NO PRIOR PERMISSION is necessary. It is the same for Great Aycliffee Policy-on-Recording-Filming-etc-Council-meetings and Spennymoor Policy-on-Recording-Filming-etc-Council-meetings to name just a few of many many council’s who all say they same. Even the DCLG Guidance on Open and accountable local government states that “no prior permission is required to carry out this activity” (page 5) that being – filming or audio-recording a public meeting; which includes photographing too.
So did SDC and Mr Stewart deny a member of the public their legal right to photograph the Cabinet meeting? It would appear so. Also why would SDC not want their meetings to be recorded? And have they closed down the democratic rights of a member of the public? Is this the The beginning of a slippery slope?
So as NO “prior notification” is necessary, this is a call to arms. We ask that any of you who will attend any open and public council meeting bring your phones and your cameras to “report” on the meeting. No prior notification to the Head of Democratic Services & Law, Amandeep Khroud is necessary. Just behave, don’t use a flash and/or be disruptive in anyway and everything will be tickety boo.
Finally, SDC paid for a webcam system to stream live images and it cost in excess of £40,000 to install and yet after nearly two years no live images have been broadcast. Also the replacement council chamber microphone system cost £49,381, according to an SDC FoI response The system was purchased via a waiver (see para 13 of SDC’s Procurement Guide to CSO 2016, created Wed 09 Aug 2017 11:33:33 BST )
As for Mr Stewart’s interpretation of the legislation to the member of the public, we’ll leave you to decide if he and the Cabinet are camera shy, and whether he got it wrong.
A copy of the recording can be heard below – it starts at about 40 seconds in.
The Shepwayvox Team