ERIC PICKLES GETS IT RIGHT
27 July 2014
Hmmm, as I have said before to Mebyon Kernow (MK), I now say to myself: fas est et ab hoste doceri. Thus, Eric Pickles, the Tory communities secretary, has rightly celebrated the coming into force next month of section 40 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. This is by way of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014.
Section 40 and the regulations make for council transparency by allowing people to film and audio record council meetings in England and tweet their happenings during or after the meeting.
In Cornwall it applies inter alia to the unitary and town/parish councils. Admirably, some Cornwall unitary council meetings are already officially filmed and this is watchable for free in real time on the web; tweets are regularly made by some during meetings. However, in some other areas of England police have been called in order to prevent local people recording council meetings: hence section 40, largely superfluous for Cornwall Council but necessary for some others.
Of course people should be able to record what councillors and officers say and do in order that they can hold them to account and better understand their decisions and so that proceedings are accessible to those of the public who cannot be present. Let me say it, Eric Pickles, sigh, has struck a blow for local democracy. This stands alongside Labour’s Freedom of Information Act 2000 as the empowerment of people in relation to those who govern them. This is a good thing.
Fas est … OVID (43 BCE-17 CE) Metamorphoses 4, 428 (It is right to learn even from the enemy)