Pickles: Go Forth And Scrutinise!

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Pickles: Go Forth And Scrutinise!

Pickles: Go Forth And Scrutinise

Lights, Camera, Action! Councils ‘Pickled’

Once again, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is in the news, reiterating his loud and clear announcement of June this year, regarding the right of the public to film, record, ‘live-stream’ and Tweet of Council Meetings:

  • “In June this year, Mr Pickles published guidance to councils asking them to open up to overt filming and social media, but since then several councils are still continuing to prevent reporting.”

The message does not seem to have been received here in the Borough of Scarborough – at Parish, Town and Borough Council levels.

In an email dated 11th September 2013, Mrs Jools MARLEY, Clerk to the Newby & Scalby Parish Council, had this to say:

Council’s standing orders specifically state “Photographing, recording, broadcasting or transmitting the proceedings of a meeting by any means is not permitted without the Council’s consent”.

The Minutes of the Full Council Meeting of Whitby Town (Parish) Council held on 2nd July 2013 include:


RESOLVED that Whitby Town Council do not allow the filming of any meetings of the Council and its committees due to cost, security and copyright issues within this building.

As recently as 17th October 2013, Lisa DIXON, Scarborough Borough Council’s Director of Democratic and Legal Services told Yorkshire Coast Radio:

” We don’t currently allow filming or voice recording at council meetings but this is currently under review and we are exploring how we can make our meetings more widely accessible in the future.”

But a member of the public here in the Borough has asked Eric PICKLES for clarification on the matter of Councils interpreting the legislation in such a way as to prevent the public from exercising the right the Secretary of State has insisted is theirs – in the interests of openness, transparency and accountability.

The Department for Communities & Local Government has now provided the following response, actively encouraging the public to exercise its right to use available technology to ensure that councils act openly and transparently. Here is the full text of the letter:

“Thank you for your email of 11 October addressed to the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles regarding Newby & Scalby Parish Council. I have been asked to reply to this as I work in the team which has policy responsibility for local democracy issues.

To answer your questions, the law on recording council proceedings can be found in section 1(7) of the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960. The Act provides for councils to permit the taking of photographs of any proceedings, or the use of any means to enable persons not present to see or hear any proceedings (whether at the time or later), or the making of any oral report on any proceedings as they take place, but does not require a council to give permission. However, the Government wishes to encourage all town and parish councils to maximise transparency and openness wherever possible as media reports about the public or press being denied access to meetings or being prevented from filming, recording or reporting live by tweeting about meetings can only weaken local people’s confidence in local democracy and their elected representatives. I would therefore encourage you to ask your parish council to reconsider its position and allow citizens to use electronic devices to report on proceedings.

With regards to the declaration of interest, please see below a link to the Government Guidance, ‘Openness and Transparency on Personal Interests: a guide for councillors’ which you may find helpful.


The law on this issue can be found in The Localism Act 2011 particularly chapter 7.

I am sure you will appreciate that local authorities act independently of central government. Parish councils are accountable for their actions to their electorate, the auditors and ultimately the courts. I would encourage you to continue to attend meetings, ask questions and hold your parish council to account so that they act consistently and are open and transparent.

Yours sincerely,

Eleanor Smyllie

Department for Communities & Local Government

Eland House

Bressenden Place

Zone 3/J1



Progress, however incremental, is progress – even if  local authorities in the Borough of Scarborough have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the age of democracy.


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  1. Sylvia Mason October 24, 2013 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    What we REALLY need to scrutinise is the honorable Mr Pickles!! as he seems to think that greenfields/belt are not being developed

    As I KEEP emailing him, ALL of our emerging Core Strategy IS on greenbelt and greenfield, as are all the other developments in this borough, BUT what makes the situation EVEN WORSE is they are ALL IN A 3,5 mile radius when we have 201.5 Square miles of land, 2000 homes standing empty and over 100 hectares of brownfield site not being looked at

    OUR rural area is about to become a city, without the infrastructure for it, developers have a FREE license to destroy our natural habitat and remove the wildlife habitat causing their extinction

    SCRUTINISE THAT Mr Pickles in relation to how tories WILL not get back in again, people are more than peed off at losing their open spaces BUT unless you do and soon it will be to late!


  2. James Miller October 25, 2013 at 7:44 am - Reply

    Mr Pickles is, I’m afraid, like many of the current cabinet, living in a high place inhabited by birds of the species Cuculus canorus. Especially when it comes to the Yorkshire coast.

    It is not just a matter of right to film but, at many Parish (Town) councils ignoring the established right to ask questions. Parish Councils have always been the one (lowly) tier of Government that allows(ed) this.

    Newby and Scalby Parish, in common with most of this area’s parishes, does not allow filming but in the new ‘town’ of Eastfield, Brian Simpson, County councillor reject but still Chair of Council or Mayor, or whatever he is this week, is notorious for totally ignoring standing orders and declaring the ‘council’ to be in closed session and throwing the public out whenever a question which may be embarrassing to him and his clique is asked. Nobody is allowed to challenge this.

    One notorious session was just after Eastfield’s infamous 111% rise in precept (tax) last year, when everybody else was freezing them. It was at that meeting that an elderly couple, who had never attended a Parish council meeting before, were asked to leave when they questioned the need for this and, in particular, the £500 donation to the neighbouring, and richer, parish of Cayton for its firework party and the 1,000s of pounds being spent on the Dell by the Parish when it had been faithfully promised some years ago, when first mooted, by the then leader of the Borough Council, Eileen Bosomworth (Con.), that all costs of the Dell development would be met by the principal developers of Middle Deepdale and that there would be no extra cost to the people of Eastfield. (No wonder that she was replaced by Tom Fox, making promises like that).

    Mr. Simpson immediately declared that there could be no discussion on this and that the ‘council’ was going into closed session. All the public were ejected. Borough of Scarborough democracy in full action.

  3. Brian Dodds October 25, 2013 at 8:45 am - Reply

    Well, here we go again, another petty little dictator has established the beginnings of his own little empire, and is behaving in the way most of us expected. It is long past time when the idea of “closed session” should be made illegal, and no council leader, at any level, should ever have the right to eject members of the public from a meeting merely because he doesn,t want the tax paying electorate to know how much they are being manipulated and swindled.There needs to be a system in this country where the people can form a legitimate committee and scrutinise the actions of councillors, and when they are found wanting, sack them.

    • James Miller October 25, 2013 at 11:48 am - Reply

      You are bang to rights Brian.

      Simpson is well known for his personal ambition. When first elected as a Borough councillor he was a leading light in the local Labour Party. That was, of course, until the council group declined to elect him as group leader. People that knew him were getting wise to him even this early in his career. At this point he resigned from Labour and joined the Lib-dems, group (yes, before he became leader after the death of Brian O’Flynn, which they must have regretted, of that group, there actually was a group). When they became very unpopular, partly because they weren’t actually the ‘new socialist party’, that he called them in a letter to the then Scarborough Evening News, and went into coalition with the Conservatives, he waved goodbye to the Libs as well. The group was decimated and he decided that he didn’t want to lead a group of only 3 councillors including himself presumably because that were insufficient of them to allow him to draw the extra ‘group leader’s’ expenses and allowances.

      He now declared himself to be an independent Independent. Maybe the formal Independent group saw the kiss of death and didn’t want him in their group. Allegedly the local anarchist party asked him if he would like to join them but, when they refused to make him Chief Anarch, he declined and concentrated on becoming the biggest fish in the small pond of Eastfield.

      I have it on very good authority that the day after (literally) being elected as Labour County Councillor for Eastfield, early in his rise and subsequent fall, he asked his predecessor in that office how he went about becoming an MP.

      No chance now Brian. To really succeed in politics you have to have more than an overwhelming ambition and desire to line your own pocket at the tax-payer’s expense. Politicians can be corrupt and greedy and get away with it as long as they are clever and give the impression that they are on the voters’ side, and a fail in that particular test tends to fail you completely.

      Mr. Simpson was sussed at the last County Elections and I suspect he will not have the ammunition to be re-elected to the Clown Hall in 2015. A less greedy clown may well replace him and he will lose another chunk of Council and Cabinet member allowances. Getting rid of him as Chair (or Mayor, whatever) could be more difficult but I suspect that if he is removed from this last area of freebies, we will hear very little of him in the future. So, in reply to your last point, there is a legitimate committee that scrutinises politicians’ actions. It may be slow and uncertain but eventually it usually works. It is called the electorate.

  4. rev phil; October 25, 2013 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    A PUBLIC body telling the PUBLIC what they can and cannot do is just NOT ON.
    The meetings are PUBLIC and as such should be heard by ALL of the residents of the county.

    If they decide that the meetings cannot be filmed it is because they are committing an offence and do not want their crimes to be broadcast.
    If that is not the case they are discussing things they KNOW they will not follow up on and they only wish people to HEAR what they say – out of the meetings. They discuss how things should be relayed to the public NOT what they ACTUALLY say.

    The LAW, their LAW goes BOTH WAYS. If we are not allowed to film them in public meetings then THEY are NOT allowed to film us in public.
    If we are subject to LAWS then THEY are and because THEY are ‘The AUTHORITIES’ the penalties for their crimes are or should be FAR higher than what we the public get. WHY, because THEY ENFORCE those LAWS and have NO lawful or LEGAL reason NOT to know those LAWS. THEY SHOULD KNOW ALL the LAWS because THEY enforce them. THEY cannot be selective.

    Namaste, rev phil;

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