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A Shot In The Foot – WTC Gives Filming Green Light

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A Shot In The Foot – Whitby Town Council Gives Filming The Green Light

  • a report by NICK HENDERSON on Whitby Town (Parish) Council’s controversial decision to abide by the law and accept filming of Meetings by members of the public – contrary to the Motion tabled by the Mayor, Councillor John FREEMAN, who is shortly about to conclude his third term of Office.


The recent meeting of the Whitby Town (Parish) Council was one I am very happy to write up and report  here on Real Whitby.

Readers might remember our visit to Filey, and the stormy weather we had to endure. That wasn’t the case on this particular evening, and instead we were treated to clear skies, and a lovely waxing crescent moon. It wasn’t an evening without incident, however . . .

I had arrived at Pannett Park in good time, and walking up to the park entrance noticed flashing blue lights and a large vehicle parked in that same entrance. The fire alarm was blaring, and after a brief check by Whitby’s fire crew, the incident was deemed to be a ‘false alarm’, and all was well.

Due to the noise of the alarm inside the building (and the obvious safety issue), I took the opportunity to stand outside on the steps of the Gallery with the Clerk Pam DOBSON, and Real Whitby contributor Nigel WARD. We exchanged a few jovial comments about the excitement created, and that despite the chill in the air, it was a fine evening.

After getting all the alarms finally turned off, and with other Councillors/members of the public arriving, everyone returned inside, and found their seats. With plenty of time to spare before the meeting, however, I had the opportunity to chat to several of the elected members, a few of the members of the public, and even a quick chat about a side issue with the Mayor, John FREEMAN (who graciously took two minutes to discuss this issue with me).

With the usual Apologies for Absence, and Declarations of Interest out of the way, it was on to the next item on the agenda – the discussion of Filming at Whitby Town Council. Regular readers of Real Whitby will already be aware that there is nothing in Statute that currently prohibits filming, tweeting or recording of Council meetings. The Standing Orders of a Council can only provide a ‘recommendation’ against it. Many Town and Parish Councils up and down the country have Standing Orders that “prohibit” the filming or recording of their meetings, but these are “unenforceable” against the public, as they do not over-ride Statute.

Mayor Councillor John FREEMAN boldly led the debate by stating that he had a total of five proposals to ‘bring to the table’, and that they had already been seconded. Before any vote, however, each of the proposals would be discussed by all Councillors.

As soon as Councillor FREEMAN had opened up the debate to the rest of the Councillors, elected member Dennis COLLINS stood up and announced he was “not going to remain”, then going on to claim that it “hurts him to have to leave” – a suggestion that he loved what he was doing, but would not allow his passion for his community to be filmed and recorded for the wider community to see.

No sooner had Councillor COLLINS finished, Cllr Noreen WILSON stood and repeated the same rhetoric, that she would not be staying, adding that “As town Councillors we give our free time and that doesn’t mean we are going to open ourselves up to humiliation.”

Councillors COLLINS and WILSON have clearly forgotten that they were elected to represent their community. Have they forgotten that they are in the PUBLIC SERVICE and, as such, open to scrutiny. They have obviously forgotten that by walking out they are refusing to discharge their duties as Councillors and elected representatives and have shown a total lack of respect for those they represent, their Council, and the wider community.

On a positive note, as the two Councillors walked out, they chose not to verbally attack any members of the public, this time. (Last month, Councillor Noreen WILSON told me I could “shove my camera up my ar*e!”). This little scene, albeit slightly dramatic (and no doubt staged for effect), was reported by Karl HANSELL of the Whitby Gazette. However no mention of the Councillors being open to public scrutiny has been made.


We will return to Karl’s article later.

Up first was the motion by Mayor John FREEMAN, seconded by Councillor Phil TRUMPER, (all motions below are proposed and seconded by these two, unless otherwise specified):

  • “That the Town Council tender for webcasting of their Council meetings by means of live streaming and archiving in a fully hosted and accessible format under contract to the Town Council”

An Amendment to this was moved by Councillor Niall CARSON, seconded by Councillor Phil TRUMPER, that:

  • “The cost of videotaping archiving etc. should come from the surplus ‘admission’ money from the Literary and Philospohical Society which was currently earmarked for ‘roof and maintenance reserve’”

The Amendment was voted on first and the recorded vote was as follows:


The Amendment was thereby carried.

The next vote was on the initial Motion (above) and the recorded vote was:


Next up as a Motion was:

  • “That this, our March meeting, the Town Council suspends the ‘prior written’ section and gives its consent for photographing, recording, broadcasting or transmitting the proceedings of a meeting by any means.”

The recorded vote went thus:

Cllr Mrs JONES
Cllr Mrs SMITH

The third of the Mayor’s Motions was that:

  • “At subsequent meetings the Town Council adopts the permission to film form as attached to the addendum to the Clerk’s Report on Filming”.

But during the brief debate before voting, Councillor Ian HAVELOCK proposed an Amendment, seeking to overturn the three-day rule. However, the Clerk quickly pointed out that Amendments negating an initial Motion are not allowed. At this point, Mayor John FREEMAN interrupted, telling Councillor HAVELOCK that he could, if he so wished, propose his own Motion. This proved to be a shot in the Mayor’s own foot.

Councillor Ian HAVELOCK  then proceeded to table his own Motion:

  • “That Whitby Town Council allow any person or persons to film or record without let or hindrance the meetings of the Council”.

Councillor HAVELOCK, sir, you are a credit to your community – pushing the boundaries of open and transparent local government. This proposal was swiftly seconded by Councillor Amanda SMITH.

But first, the Council had to return to the matter of voting on the Mayor’s Motion:

  • “At subsequent meetings the Town Council adopts the permission to film form as attached to the addendum to the Clerks Report on Filming”

This was not carried, due to the following results:


The Mayor’s Motion was thereby defeated.

Had Councillors WILSON and COLLINS remained present to fulfill their duties as Councillors, they could have voted for this Motion. It would then have been carried and the Mayor’s attempt to limit the scope of filming would have succeeded. (And, thereby, the transparency of the Council would have been compromised).

But then came the vote on Councillor Ian HAVELOCK’s Motion:

  • “That Whitby Town Council allow any person or persons to film or record without let or hindrance the meetings of the Council”.

A recorded vote brought in the following result:

Cllr Mrs SMITH

A close call – that could so easily have gone the other way. IF the two defecting Councillors had been present, the Mayor may well have voted with the ‘Againsts’. It should be noted, though, that it cannot be known for certain that the defecting Councillors would have opposed Councillor Ian HAVELOCK’s Motion. However, they had expressed violent opposition to filming in their ‘defection’ speeches.

The Mayor’s next Motion, addressing the incidental inclusion of copyrighted pictures in the Pannet Art Gallery during filming, was as follows:

  • “That the Town Council advises exhibitors in the Gallery that ‘incidental inclusion’ may occur during filming”

This Motion was unnecessary as it is already covered in existing statute.

The recorded vote carried this Motion almost unanimously.

Cllr Mrs JONES
Cllr Mrs SMITH



Next, Councillor Simon PARKES, seconded by Councillor Steve SMITH, then moved that:

  • “This Council places a notice at the entrance advising the public that filming may take place, during Council meetings”.

A sensible precaution, since the public are not subject to scrutiny and may well prefer not to appear on film.

Once again, the Motion was carried without opposition.

Cllr Mrs JONES
Cllr Mrs SMITH

The Mayor’s final Motion on the table was that:

  • “The Town Council adopts as good practice the submission of motions in writing using the form attached to the addendum to the clerks report” 

This prudent motion from Mayor John FREEMAN, actually suggested to the Clerk a week or two ago by Nigel WARD, is designed to prevent any disagreement over the precise wording of otions, now or in the future. This has to be viewed as a welcome move towards open, transparent local government that is clear and no nonsense – kudos to Mayor Councillor John FREEMAN.

The vote was recorded thus:

Cllr Mrs JONES
Cllr Mrs SMITH

[All data kindly provide by Whitby Town Clerk Mrs Pam DOBSON].

Returning to Karl HANSELL’s article, he quoted Councillor Niall CARSON as having said:  “If it suggests that someone puts my words into someone else’s mouth or we ended up singing a rap or something else ridiculous, we can say have a look on our website as the entire video is on there and you can make your own mind up.”

Councillor CARSON made a very good point, and this was in relation to people who might take any “raw footage” off the internet and edit it for the purposes of lampooning the Council.

The Whitby Gazette report omitted to mention that shortly thereafter, Councillor Ian HAVELOCK stood and addressed the Council, stating that he didn’t see what the problem was, because if someone wanted to edit footage and make a satirical piece about the Council, it would happen whether the Council wanted it to or not. He then mentioned “Spitting Image and that the Government didn’t attempt to do anything to stop that, because it would have inhibited “freedom of speech”. A very valid point, well made by Councillor HAVELOCK.

The Whitby Gazette article then goes on to make a bold claim. A claim that I am suggesting right now is downright disingenuous. It reads:

“The group of residents who appealed for the council to be filmed left the meeting after the proposal was decided.

The group had not been seen at council meetings for some time and left when they were no longer the topic of discussion, when other important matters relating to the improvement of the town were being discussed by the council.”

I remained in the meeting and right after all of the proposals had been made, the next item on the Agenda was the receiving of reports from external organisations – such as SBC, NYCC, the Police, and the YORK POTASH group. The Police report, given by Inspector Andy COLBOUNE lasted over ten minutes, and Matt PARSONS of York Potash Limited (formerly of Scarborough Borough Council) lasted something over twenty minutes, it is quite simply untrue that we left the meeting when the filming was no longer the topic of discussion.

However, Councillor RIXHAM-SMITH did leave the meeting at 7:30p.m., immediately after all the Motions and the discussion surrounding them were completed. Surely the Whitby Gazette are not suggesting that Councillor RIXHAM-SMITH is in some way involved in the “group” they sought to denigrate?

After Matt PARSONS had finished his address to the Council, he was robustly questioned by a number of Councillors, most notably Councillor Wynn JONES and Councillor Mike MURPHY, who grilled Matt PARSONS for some time about an issue of reporting – specifically, that Matt had just informed WTC that due to the changes in proposals being put forward, the number of jobs at the mine would increase slightly at the “Whitby end” and decrease slightly at the “northern end”. However, it had been reported in another newspaper that the opposite would be true, and jobs at the Whitby end of the project would decrease slightly and Teeside would see an increase.

Quite a number of people addressed the Council during Public Participation, including myself and Nigel WARD. In total, Public Participation lasted almost half an hour, due to the number of people who wanted to speak and ask questions of the Council, and of Matt PARSONS.

To suggest that a “group” left when they were no longer the topic of discussion was disingenuous.

It is true that there are some among the community of Whitby, and wider afield, who have urged and encouraged the Council to embrace a more open and transparent stance, but that “group” were not the topic of discussion – rather the topic of discussion was the Council being more open and more transparent, in a way that provides further avenues through which the Council can engage with the community it serves. To claim otherwise is, in my opinion, inappropriate – and a downright lie.

Ultimately though, I did leave, but not immediately after the discussion of filming. I was most interested in the Potash discussions, for reasons I will report on at a later date, but certainly I was there for more than an hour after the discussions and votes on filming.

I did attempt to contact Ed ASQUITH today, by telephone, in relation to the dodgy reporting in the Whitby Gazette; he failed to return my call, and has not offered any comment toward this article. However, I will update readers with any comments Ed might wish to make in relation to this.

Overall, I for one (and I said as much at the WTC meeting) welcome the fact that Whitby Town (Parish) Council have stepped forward boldly and proudly into the 21st Century, and I welcome the opportunity to see greater transparency and engagement with the community. I also congratulate the Councillors (those who remained present, at least) for taking steps to ensure these principles are embraced and acted upon.

Here’s to WTC and all the 21st Century Councils to be proud of!


Two members present at the meeting have offered statements for publication.

Ian HAVELOCK had this to say:

“What a pity that the matter of recording meetings became sensationalised by two Cllrs leaving in opposition, when any attempt to prohibit or control filming is not possible, and certainly not desirable. The ensuing debate only diverted time and attention from more important and pressing issues.”

and Simon PARKES stated:

“A number of people have asked me why I spoke against the Mayor’s motion which required all people who wished to film the councils proceedings to give three days notice. And as the Real Whitby website is seen by thousands of people, many of them locals, I thought it a good idea to put my reason ‘out there’, so to speak.

In the first place, let me make clear, if I may, that it’s my view that any public official should expect to be scrutinised in relation to their public role, and that I am personally committed to openness in local government.

The motion that the Mayor brought forward, in my view, served no useful purpose. If a person wrote in saying it was their intention to film, what would the council do with that? Would they refuse? And if so, as I said at Full Council, ‘Who is going to stop these people at the door – I wont’; and if five people write in to film but seven turn up to film on the night, then what?

It seemed a totally un-workable rule which served no purpose, and I am glad that the majority of the Council voted it down; had it been passed, it would have put the paid council staff, and the Councillors into direct conflict with any person filming who had not written in. Thankfully common-sense prevailed and that motion fell.

The law is changing, it will require such meetings be open to filming and I am very pleased that the Council is now seeking to film its meetings and make them available to the public; this is the only logical way forward – and that’s why I voted for it!”



Posted by on March 7, 2014. Filed under Featured,Whitby News 2014,Whitby Town Council. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

23 Responses to A Shot In The Foot – WTC Gives Filming Green Light

  1. Alex Reply

    March 7, 2014 at 8:56 am

    They were concerned about the cost of filming the meetings but they could use the existing security camera that is in Pannet Gallery, add audio, live stream it to Youtube for the World to see and also receive money for that from Youtube.
    I have noticed that a lot of ‘Councillors’ do not quite grasp modern technology and often in their ignorance and fear, vote for motions that are totally outdated (as happened at Pannet gallery on Tuesday evening).

  2. Colin Doran Reply

    March 7, 2014 at 9:27 am

    I was there. Being able to refer toa video afterwards on any part of the meeting would be extremely helpful. In this instance: would the protocol that was talked about requiring a form to be filled in passed or not? Transparency is improved: years ago I attended a council meeting(Urban district) Each topic was announced, gone through from a written list wwe could not see. All very opaque.

  3. Brian Dodds Reply

    March 7, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Wel top marks to WTC for moving with the times and embracing the idea of openness and transparency, thus allowing the people they were elected to represent to see that the are honouring their commitment to good honest government. The two councillors who so seriously objected to the filming that they walked out of the meeting should now be required to offer their unconditional resignation. This would serve two purposes, first they wouldn,t have to suffer being filmed and be open to ridicule, and second they would make way for a person with a more tolerant attitude towards having their actions in council meetings scrutinised bu the wider general public.I they don,t want to be open to scrutiny then they have no place in public service of any kind, great job Nick, well done.

  4. Mike Upton Reply

    March 7, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Excellent article, Have to ask is councillor Jennison just there to make the tea!! as all he seems to do is sit on the fence and abstain!!

    • Alex Reply

      March 7, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      I have emailed Mr Jennison asking why he didn’t bother voting. I am currently waiting for a reply.

  5. rod mather Reply

    March 7, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    That Gazette report has got to be the sorriest piece of childish drivel I ever saw in a british newspaper. Johnson Press needs to take its nose out from between the council’s buttocks then hire a bloody journalist. This tonker couldn’t report a thunderstorm without getting its name wrong. And not a word about the <>. Biased crap not fit for purpose in a toilet roll shortage. Bring back Jon Stokoe or do us all a favour and shut down.

  6. Glenn Kilpatrick Reply

    March 7, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Your You Tube idea is Great, The council should have its own Youtube channel for interested parties. Sadly your idea of income is flawed though. To make cash from Adsense you actually have to have an audience. A handful of hits wont even make them a penny a week,.

    • Alex Reply

      March 7, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      You should have seen the face of the clerk when I pointed out the security camera that has been there for years. She had clearly never noticed it before.
      A penny a week is better than no penny a week. ;)

      • Pete Budd Reply

        March 9, 2014 at 6:59 pm

        You’re the man Alex. Nobody saw the old cameras recording. Help the clerk to arrange livestream if you can regards pete

  7. Tim Thorne Reply

    March 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    In general, Town (Parish) Councils have very little money to spend and not much in the way of power. Piling more expense on them will be counter-productive in the long run and ensure their demise.

    Either devolve powers from Borough and District Councils to them or scrap them all together.

    Democracy is a waste of money when decisions such as “What colour Xmas lights this year?” are discussed.

    • Nigel Reply

      March 7, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      By all means devolve power to Parish level – but first let us see elected (not co-opted) Councillors who have a clear understanding of their roles as public servants and are possessed of sufficient intellectual capacity to read, digest and improve upon the reports of their Officers.

      Then we could dispense entirely with the largely corrupt and self-serving middle-tier District and Borough Councils who have, for forty years odd, concentrated their attentions around their own immediate locallities (with mixed results), leaving the outlying communities out in the cold. Whitby is a prime example. Filey, too.

      • Tim Thorne Reply

        March 7, 2014 at 8:20 pm

        You should come for a walk around Scarborough and point out where all the money, robbed from people in Whitby and Filey, has been spent for the benefit of the people of Scarborough.

        We’ve had around £12million spent on the Spa and OAT which has generated losses of around £4million.

        We’re all feeling hard done by because of the disastrous set of decisions made by people who are waaaaay out of their depth.

        • al roberts Reply

          March 10, 2014 at 9:44 am

          Too right Tim,
          I see that the Cabinet are to be presented with a report on Tuesday indicating that the £12m you quote already squandered on the Spa is in danger of being lost to the sea unless a further £24m plus is spent on defending the white elephant that is the Spa.
          The scary bit of the report is,

          “The estimated total cost of the scheme is now £24.153m including £4.929m risk allowance and £1.864m inflation allowance (2.5%).
          The scheme could be partially grant funded by £11.453m of Environment Agency grant aid, however
          this would leave a requirement for a further £12.700m to be funded from third party contributions from beneficiaries, predominantly the Council.
          The third party contributors would in addition be liable for any additional cost overruns associated with the scheme above and beyond the allocated risk

          One must ask, how was the Spa project slipped past the feller acknowledged as “expert” in sea defences and employed by SBC at the time of the Spa project, John Riby MD ??

    • arthur jones Reply

      March 11, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      I agree Tim

      But we have what we have WTC represents Whitby and it is not going to change sometime soon and as such it should be helped and supported to do the best for the town. People like yourself, Nigel Ward and others with strong convictions should put yourself for election and work from the inside not always criticising and finding fault with those individuals who have put themselves into this position. They may not “possess” or have “sufficient intellectual capacity to read, digest and improve upon the reports of their Officers,” whoever they are, but they are all we have and not all are bad

  8. jgh Reply

    March 7, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Err… Can the Town Council vote to take money from the Lit&Phil? I’d love to be able to spend my neighbour’s money who lives in the flat next door to me.

  9. Elizabeth Truesdale Reply

    March 7, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    This is ridiculous! Since the late 1970′s/early 1980′s when cities in the US started awarding cable TV contracts to monopoly franchises (Time Warner, Comcast, Charter Comm.), a condition originally was that the community be served by these companies by providing the service of broadcasting City Council meetings, and, I believe, some or all school board meetings. Committee meetings for these groups have not been broadcast. I have had the good fortune to serve on our city’s Library Board since the summer of 2008, and this past summer, all of our large group, but not committee, meetings have been filmed for posterity, and are or will be available over the web, although not broadcast. The change it’s made for us is that we are much less likely to drag out discussion by chit-chat or digressing. SO hard to believe if the council is behaving decorously and doing the people’s business in an appropriate manner that anyone on the council would object to filming.

  10. Jane Swales Reply

    March 8, 2014 at 12:29 am

    Help me with this. Councillor Noreen (or is it Norma) Wilson is worried she’s going to be publicly humiliated on camera – so she behaves like a petulant, arrogant, foul-mouthed guttersnipe, a disgrace to herself and her colleagues…..

    How is that supposed to work?

    If she doesn’t resign, the Mayor should call a vote of no confidence and throw the despicable old harridan off the council, before she brings them all into disrepute. Unfit for public office, if ever there was one!

    • Tim Hicks Reply

      March 8, 2014 at 10:51 am

      Dear Jane,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree with the sentiments that you express, particularly as Councillor Wilson may have committed an offence of use of insulting words or behaviour, or of bringing the Council into public disrepute by her conduct. She should certainly not have behaved like this at a Council meeting.

      However, I think the word “guttersnipe” is excessive.

      Best regards,


  11. Nigel Reply

    March 8, 2014 at 11:47 am

    It is disappointing to learn that, as of this morning (Saturday 8th March 2014) Nick HENDERSON has received neither an acknowledgement nor a response to his Formal Complaint to the Labour Party:

    Neil Fleming,
    Acting Regional Director Labour North,
    Labour Central,
    Kings Manor,
    Newcastle upon Tyne,
    NE1 6PA

    Councillor Noreen WILSON’s conduct was in flagrant breach of the Labour Party Code of Conduct.

    Perhaps Labour’s local representative Diana JEUDA would care to respond to Nick, here on Real Whitby?

    Or what about the Leader of the Scarborough & Whitby Labour Group, Councillor Eric BROADBENT?

    Or are we to assume that the entire Labour administration condones members acting as self-appointed proctologists?

    • Alex Reply

      March 8, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      That’s labour for you through and through. All they want are people to vote for them to keep them in office.
      I trust them as far I as can throw a truck.

  12. Pete budd Reply

    March 9, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Alex help the clerk if you can. They authorised live streaming of meetings in future and funds to enable.

    • Alex Reply

      March 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      Pete, I would love to help them but I am very rarely in Whitby and I am sure there must be many more local resident who could help.
      I find it disappointing to see just ten members of the public at these meetings. Remind me, what is the population ot the town?

  13. arthur jones Reply

    March 11, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Hi again Nick, I have been catching up with events and read your report. It is a pity that 2 councillors decided to walk out and stating that they are concerned about being humiliated or shown in an incorrect manner after all if this did occur via your filming then it would display you and Real Whitby as being non responsible and subject to the same criticism giving to others within the reports etc. Also some form of legal process may be applicable

    I thought that the Mayor John Freeman did well in raising the 5 motions as this enabled all to discuss and consider the various aspects attached to filming council meetings regardless of who carries this out. I note that you stated that he is now is about to conclude his 3rd term in office what is the significance of this is. Is this position something that aspire to yourself and may go for once your have gradulated from York college.

    Also I understand that fellow Real Whitbyterian Pete Budd was upto his usual tricks walking around muttering and removing signs from the walls. Nigel Ward apparently stated that in his view the council was improving which is praise in deed.

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