Wednesday, 24 April 2013


Last night I chaired (for a short while) Thanet Council's Overview & Scrutiny Panel. I had declared beforehand that in keeping with advice  from for the Government I would allow citizen journalists to film the meeting . I took this step in response to the appalling behaviour of elected representatives  at last weeks Council meeting. It is my belief that if  members of the public are allowed to film or photograph meetings of the Council then the rude, offensive and downright insulting behaviour of many Thanet Councillors might be moderated. If voters could see video of the current behaviour at Council meetings  then I'm pretty sure that many councillors from both the Labour and Conservative Parties  would never be elected again!

Anyway to cut a long story short  Councillors from the Labour Party voted against my ruling to allow both accredited and citizen journalists to film  the meeting. Councillors of the Conservative Party  abstained. The result was that a BBC journalist, a Thanet Gazette reporter and a journalist from Thanet Watch had to turn off their  cameras. Members of the public who were at the meeting were disgusted by the decision of the assembled councillors.

In my opinion the decision to stop journalists from filming was morally corrupt so I decided not to chair the meeting as a protest.

I have now written to Eric Pickles MP Local Government Secretary advising him of what happened and asking him to intervene in the increasing secretive,  anti-democratic and opaque management of Thanet Council by senior councillors.

We live in a modern world  with new affordable technologies which allow real-time scrutiny and accountability of politicians. It is wrong to prevent local citizens from using this technology to hold their elected representatives to account.

Such and approach to politics is not only morally and democratically corrupt, but makes it much easier for actual corruption and mismanagement to take-hold and thrive.

Here is my letter to Eric Pickles.

Dear Mr Pickles
I am writing to you in my capacity as a Thanet District Councillor  to express my concern about my Council's unreasonable resistance to allowing  the filming of its meetings by accredited members of the media and citizen journalists.
At the Council meeting on 18th April a local journalist was expelled from the meeting for trying to film the appalling way in which councillors behaved when dealing with a major petition of over a 1,000 signatures. Instead of dealing with the petition, councillors shouted and traded personal insults at each other almost resulting in a fist fight between 2 members. The journalist and I felt that the behaviour was so bad that it must be recorded and published. The journalist was expelled from the meeting. And for taking photographs of a meeting of a Council of which I am member, I too was expelled. I have since published some of these pictures on my blog site and have been advised that elected  Members have complained to the Council's Standards Board about that fact that I photographed and published evidence of their unacceptable behaviour.
Last night at a meeting of Thanet Council's Overview and Scrutiny Panel (of which I am the chairman). I agreed to allow the meeting to be recorded by accredited journalists (including the BBC who were present) and citizen journalists. Members of the Council's ruling  Labour Group challenged my decision  and voted not to allow any filming at all. Sadly the Tory group abstained on this issue.
As you probably know, following the gaoling of the Council's former leader Sandy Ezeikiel for misconduct in public office, Thanet Council's reputation for probity and transparency is extremely  poor and most people in the district hold the Council in low esteem.
Efforts to restore its reputation by becoming more open and transparent in the reporting of its business through the use of new media and citizen journalism are being resisted by a majority of Councillors. This cannot be right. Indeed Thanet  Cabinet's forthcoming review of Probity and Reputation makes no mention whatsoever of opening up meetings to filmed by citizens journalists as a means of rehabilitating its tarnished image.
I am aware of you comments in favour of allowing the filming of Council meetings by citizen journalists. I am also aware of your colleague Bob Neale's  letter to all Council Leaders and Monitoring Officers encouraging them to allow citizen journalists to record and broadcast video of Council meetings. I can advise you that this letter has never been discussed by Thanet Council or its committees and this letter has never been circulated to Members. This is totally unacceptable.
I would be very grateful if you could investigate the situation at Thanet Council and  use your power and influence to persuade this old fashioned, backward looking body to allow local people to hold  councillors to public account by filming and broadcasting them at work in meetings.
I am sure that the people of Thanet will welcome your intervention. But perhaps not the councillors.
I am seriously considering setting up a petition to force the Council to change its undemocratic rules in relation to filming
I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. TDC is a disgrace and the councillors who are refusing to allow proceedings to be filmed need to be removed. They are there at our expense and there are no good reasons why we should not be able to see and hear what they are doing, supposedly, on our behalf. I'm forced to ask: what are they trying to hide?

  2. Anon 22:06 And what gives you the right to know what deals Councillors are cooking up with officers then?

  3. You really are an idiot.

    You seek to be part of a decision making branch of local government, and then you seek to blatantly ignore the decisions that it makes.


  4. @Anonymous at 22:06. Alternatively , you could attend the meetings, and then hold them account at the ballot box?

    Just an idea.

  5. I got as far as drafting a stiff letter of complaint to Eric Pickles after what happened on Thursday. Given the strong leaning towards allowing all forms of journalists free access the council's approach borders on illegal.

  6. Borders on illegal? Really, which law is being broken?