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Councillor hoping for victory for ‘openness’
Monday, 03 December 2012
EDDC has a communications policy ‘that almost belongs in the dark ages’
An Ottery councillor’s idea to lift recording restrictions in the East Devon District Council (EDDC) chamber has been recommended for approval.
But Councillor Roger Giles says the recommendation doesn’t go far enough, and he demands that “openness and transparency” are “fully embraced”.
It was in December last year that Councillor Giles proposed that recording restrictions in the council chamber at Knowle, Sidmouth, should be lifted. His train of thought followed that of former EDDC leader Sara Randall Johnson, who had previously said that the non-recording policy might not reflect modern times.
In December last year, Councillor Giles said: “Many people cannot understand why, in an age that embraces modern and immediate communications, EDDC has a policy that almost belongs in the dark ages.”
The matter was passed to EDDC’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, of which Councillor Giles is also member. Council officers have looked into the matter, and a report prepared for Overview and Scrutiny Committee members said: “The council is committed to being open and transparent in its dealings.
“The provision and publication of an audio recording of council meetings is supportive of this commitment, by extending the reach of public meetings to individuals who cannot attend to listen in person.”
A recommendation to lift the restrictions followed, but included opt-out options for officers and members of the public, the report saying: “Officers and members of the public who do not wish to be recorded will have this option.
“The written minutes of a meeting will continue to offer the primary and most complete record of decisions and officer advice at meetings.”
Councillor Giles said: “I welcome the principle [of the recommendation] but it is too restrictive."
He feels that anyone not wishing to be recorded should forfeit their right to partake in the debate, and added: “It is akin to people writing anonymous letters. The spirit of openness and transparency must be fully embraced.”
It is understood a decision will be made when the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meets in January. The report also explained that webcasting meetings would not be considered until it had been decided if EDDC should relocate to Honiton or not.
*The recording of main public committee meetings is proposed to comprise: Council, Cabinet, Development Management Committee, Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Housing Review Board, Audit and Governance Committee, Licensing and Enforcement Committee, Standards Committee.
Any session where the public and press are excluded (part B) will not be recorded.
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