Bexley it may be a case of we’ll believe it when we see it. Click image for original web page.
Perhaps new readers would appreciate a short history lesson?
Eighteen months ago precisely Bob Neil who is Eric Pickles' right hand man wrote to councils to tell them they should make friends with bloggers and welcome recording devices into the council chamber. Bexley council has far too many dirty secrets to have anything to do with that so they changed their Constitution to explicitly forbid it. At every public meeting you will hear the Chairman, except councillor Alex Sawyer who is either forgetful or cannot bring himself to lie, trot out the excuse that the ban on recording is to protect members of the public from cameras. It's a lie, the ban applies to audio recording too at meetings where the public is not allowed to speak. Bexley council, you may recall, is at the forefront of filming people without permission as a glance skywards in many a main road will confirm.
John Kerlen, aka Olly Cromwell, defied the filming ban and was consequently assaulted by councillor Linda Bailey, aka Biffa, and then banned from council meetings and maliciously prosecuted for comments which he didn’t make. That brings us pretty much up to date. I think we can assume that Bexley council is dead set against all steps towards transparency and accountability.
Eric Pickles however takes very much the opposite view. Unfortunately he has never shown any inclination to apply any sanctions to refuseniks like O’Neill and co. But today Eric has turned the screw by several notches. He says…
“New legal rights for citizen reporters: Local authorities are now obliged to provide reasonable facilities for members of the public to report the proceedings as well as accredited newspapers. This will make it easier for new 'social media' reporting of council executive meetings thereby opening proceedings up to internet bloggers, tweeting and hyperlocal news forums.”
“Crucially councils will no longer be able to cite political advice as justification for closing a meeting to the public and press. In addition any intentional obstruction or refusal to supply certain documents could result in a fine for the individual concerned.”
Not surprisingly after his recent ordeal at the hands of a corrupt council, Olly Cromwell whipped out his pen pretty quickly and dashed off the following to Uncle Eric. Quite right too. It is clear that complaining to Bexley council about its law breaking only results in a tissue of lies of the sort perpetrated by councillor Val Clark over the pen jabbing mayor. It is necessary to take the fight to outside bodies. Not just the Information Commissioner and the Local Government Ombudsman, but the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Government Departments and Scotland Yard. Bexley council’s activities need to be known more widely.
Dear Mr. Pickles,
I cordially invite you to attend one of the following two events in the London Borough of Bexley:
The Public Cabinet Meeting - 16 October 2012 7:30pm
The Council Meeting - 7 November 2012 7:30pm
I appreciate that you are an extremely busy person however I would urge you to please make an attendance at either of these meetings. I feel the need to explain:
First I'd like to refer you to the following link from February last year:
To save you too much hassle it is a letter from Bob Neill to all council leaders explaining the need for them to ensure that at all times an atmosphere of transparency and accountability should be created, by allowing citizen bloggers and journalists to film/record meetings of the council.
With this in mind I attempted to film a council meeting in March of last year and the council attempted to reject me from the meeting. As a result the council amended their standing orders demanding that anyone who was interested in filming these meetings would need to seek permission in advance from the mayor.
I did this on numerous ocassions and each time this request was denied. Before each meeting of the council starts the mayor reads a standing order which prohibits anyone from recording these meetings and says he has not given anyone permission to do so. In direct defiance of the guidelines set out by Mr. Neill. I did on several other occasions present Mr. Neill’s letter to the security at the council meeting but they were insistent that no filming was allowed. Being a somewhat headstrong person I did on some ocassions attempt to film the meetings, and there was once an incident where a councillor assaulted me to try and stop me from filming.
As a result of these attempts, I was banned from council meetings for six months due to my “disruptive" behaviour”. When the limit of the ban ran out I was again banned for another six months from council meetings, effectively stopping me from my right to access democracy.
I see with interest that today your department has issued this release:
Again urging councils to allow citizen bloggers and journalists to record meetings of the council.
I would therefore like to invite you to either one of the meetings mentioned above to witness how the London Borough of Bexley is not only ignoring government guidelines but is flouting them in an attempt at subverting an accountable and transparent democracy.
Please note I have copied editors from all the daily nationals and other interested parties into this email.
I look forward to your RSVP.