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Bonkers Blog June 2011

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11 June (Part 1) - Any excuse will do - (to block transparency and accountability)

Bexley council chamberAs I expect you will remember, Bexley council’s response under the previous joke of a mayor, Val Clark to the government’s recommendation that “bloggers and citizen journalists” should be welcomed to council meetings and allowed to record procedures if they so wished, was to convene a cabal to institutionalise their need to keep democracy at bay as far as they possibly could. Filming of council proceedings is now expressly forbidden under threat of police action in this rotten borough. There was a little get out clause included to make Bexley council look a little less like the bunch of self-serving parasites they are and that was that residents could ask for permission to record events with the implication that this would be looked upon favourably. It is of course just a meaningless bit of PR nonsense. No one has yet been given permission.

The excuse is always the same, that members of the public may object to being filmed; it’s always looked like a lie to me but that is their lame excuse.

I have now seen a variant of that excuse. Someone asked if he could mount his camera on a tripod in front of the public gallery pointing only in the direction of the councillors. Back came the reply with the same old message, “The council’s policy seeks to prevent people from being filmed without their consent”. Yes we know that, get on with it; plus, “there are no physical barriers preventing members of the public from walking in front of the gallery”. Ah, there we go again. It’s not our wonderful councillors standing in the way of democracy, it’s those awful people called the public who may object. I attended a council meeting at which only one person attending wasn’t known to me by name. Any excuse will do when it comes to stamping on democracy and sticking two fingers up at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Bexley council is not however entirely alone in being run by people who don’t understand what modern democracy means. In Carmarthen a blogger was arrested, phone confiscated, handcuffed and thrown into a police cell for filming a meeting. And the health authorities are no better; North Cumbria NHS Trust has hired lawyers to combat a retired publican who blogged his treatment for prostate cancer. Oh dear; when this site was new and news flowed in only sporadically I indulged myself by including a report of my experience at the hands of Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s A&E department. Thrown out five minutes before their target treatment time, high on morphine, left unattended half conscious on their waiting room floor with no means of getting home. Their excuses would be worthy of a council official dreaming up new reasons why the council is right and the government minister is wrong.

Photograph taken before the ban on cameras was imposed.


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