Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Can I turn up to a Local Authority Meeting to film and/or record this event?

Back in February 2011, Eric Pickles said the following:

"Councils should open up their public meetings to local news ‘bloggers’ and routinely allow online filming of public discussions as part of increasing their transparency."

2 and a half years later and Richard Taylor finds out that how far behind the local Conservatives really are!

Can I turn up and film and/or record proceedings?

The answer, according to each LA standing orders is as follows:

Cambs County Council: Yes
Cambs Fire Authority: Yes
East Cambs DC: Yes - I can find no specific prohibition for or against filming or recording
Huntingdonshire DC: No
Fenland DC: No
South Cambs: No

Time and again it is the Conservative run District Councils, for the most part, are behind the times and behind Conservative policy!

The Liberal Democrat run Cambridge City Council allow turn up filming.

South Cambs DC

21.4 Recording of Business
Unless specifically authorised by resolution, no audio and / or visual or photographic
recording in any format is allowed at any meeting of the Council, the Executive, or any
committee or sub-committee of the Council or the Executive.

Huntingdonshire District Council

Filming, videoing or audio recording of a meeting or photography at a Council
meeting shall be permitted only with the consent of the Chairman of the
meeting concerned. The necessary consent shall have been obtained and the
Head of Paid Service, or in his absence, the Head of Legal and Democratic
Services notified by no later than three working days before the meeting.

Fenland DC

The filming, video filming, photographing or audio recording of a
meeting shall not be permitted by any person without the explicit
consent of the Chairman of the meeting concerned following
consultation with the Chief Executive . The necessary consent
shall have been obtained and the proper officer notified by no
later than one hour before the meeting.

Cambs Fire Authority


The Fire Authority supports the principle of transparency and encourages filming, recording and taking photographs at its meetings that are open to the public. It also welcomes the use of social networking websites (such as Twitter and Facebook) and micro-blogging to communicate with people about what is happening, as it happens.

There is no requirement to notify the Fire Authority in advance, but it should be noted that the Chairman of the meeting will have absolute discretion to terminate or suspend any of these activities if, in their opinion, continuing to do so would prejudice proceedings at the meeting. The circumstances in which termination or suspension might occur could include:
public disturbance or suspension of the meeting

the meeting agreeing to formally exclude the press and public from the meeting due to the confidential nature of the business being discussed

where it is considered that continued recording/photography/filming/webcasting might infringe the rights of any individual, and

when the Chairman, considers that a defamatory statement has been made.

In allowing this, the Fire Authority asks those recording proceedings not to edit the film/ record/photographs in a way that could lead to misinterpretation of the proceedings, or infringe the core values of the Fire Authority. This includes refraining from editing an image or views expressed in a way that may ridicule, or show a lack of respect towards those being photographed/filmed/ recorded.

Those intending to bring large equipment, or wishing to discuss any special requirements are advised to contact the Fire and Rescue Service’s Communications Team in advance of the meeting to seek advice and guidance. The use of flash photography or additional lighting will not be allowed unless this has been discussed in advance of the meeting and agreement reached on how it can be done without disrupting proceedings.

At the beginning of each meeting, the Chairman will make an announcement that the meeting may be filmed, recorded or photographed. Meeting agendas will also carry this message.

The Authority supports the principle of transparency and encourages filming, recording and taking photographs at its meetings that are open to the public. It also welcomes the use of social networking and micro-blogging websites (such as Twitter and Facebook) to communicate with people about what is happening, as it happens. These arrangements will operate in accordance with a protocol agreed by the Chairman of the Authority and political Group Leaders. This protocol will be published on the Authority’s website.

Cambridge City Council

Cambridge City Council protocol on audio/visual recording and
photography at Council meetings.
The Council is committed to being open and transparent in the way it
conducts its decision making. Recording is permitted at council meetings
which are open to the public. The Council understands that some members of
the public attending its meetings may not wish to be recorded. The Chair of
the meeting will facilitate by ensuring that any such request not to be recorded
is respected by those doing the recording.
The rules which the Council will apply are:
1. Anyone wishing to record must let the Chair of the meeting know and the
recording must be overt (i.e clearly visible to anyone at the meeting). The
Council will supply signs which will be deployed at any meeting all or part of
which is to be recorded.
2. The Chair of the meeting has absolute discretion to stop or suspend
recording if in their opinion continuing to do so would prejudice proceedings at
the meeting or if the person recording is in breach of these rules. The
circumstances in which this might occur include :
recording is disrupting the proceedings of the meeting
there is public disturbance or a suspension of the meeting
the meeting has resolved to exclude the public for reasons which are set
down in the Council’s Constitution
3. Any member of the public has the right not to be recorded. We ensure that
agendas for, and signage at, council meetings make it clear that recording
can take place – if anyone does not wish to be recorded they must let the
Chair of the meeting know
4. The recording should not be edited in a way that could lead to
misinterpretation or misrepresentation of the proceedings or infringement of
the Council’s values or; in a way that ridicules or shows a lack of respect for
those in the recording. The Council would expect any recording in breach of
these rules to be removed from public view.
Notes for guidance:
Please contact Democratic Services in advance of the meeting if the
recording you wish to do involves large equipment or special requirements.
The use of lighting for filming/flash photography is allowed if it is arranged with
Democratic Services prior to the meeting. We require this so we can ensure
the meeting will not be unduly disrupted and there is a safe environment to
transact the business.

A failure to follow these requirements may lead to a request to record being
refused at subsequent council meetings.
Recording and reporting the council’s meetings is subject to the law and it is
the responsibility of those doing the recording and reporting to ensure
compliance. This will include the Human Rights Act, the Data Protection Act
and the laws of libel and defamation.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

And HDC still don't get it!

Darren Tysoe, Huntingdonshire DC Cabinet member, was on 'County Matters' (a programme on Sunday morning on HCR104FM) last week. In the interview, he said the following (though I may have paraphrased):
  1. HDC saved £8 million.
  2. The Government has cut the money it gives HDC by 5% and HDC needs to save £2 million from current spending.
  3. HDC has low Council Tax. This is paid out of reserves.
  4. People weren't happy with the Council Tax increases.
  5. Most residents are in the 3 bands below the Band D average.
Let me start with the first point.

I don't doubt the savings. But what are savings? For instance if you plan to rebuild the bus station and then don't is that a saving? Is making the Town Councils pay towards CCTV and public toilets actually savings? This maybe a saving to the District Council budget but not necessarily to the Council Tax payer how has to pick up the bill via the Town Council rather than the District Council.

The second point is not very well thought out. The Government for 2012/13 gave grants of £11 million. In this year the total money will be £12.9 million. In 2014/15 this does fall again to £12.1 million but rises to £14.4 million by 2017/18. So where is the 5% cut? The problem isn't lack of Government funding it is point 3.

The third point is the source of the trouble at HDC. Whilst HDC and the Conservatives have shouted from the roof tops that it is a council with low council tax it has forgotten about the spending part. To my mind a low council tax council is also a low spending council. HDC has never been a low spending council. Indeed back at the beginning of the last decade HDC recognised it needed to double Council Tax. The only reason it didn't put tax up was the Labour Government capped HDC.

This caused problems. But HDC went ahead and spent as though it was getting double the amount of council tax in and made up the deficit by using reserves. With Government changes to funding this deficit has hit home. HDC needs to allow building of homes to get Council Tax plus new homes bonus money in to keep this budget afloat.

Which brings me to point 4. Because HDC and Conservative propaganda has focussed on the low council tax rate and leaves out why the Conservatives have been able to spend high by using diminishing reserves, this has meant Council tax increases have come as a bit of a shock. On one hand we have David Cameron and the Conservatives informing people of the Council Tax freeze whilst Conservative run HDC pushes ahead with large increases. The two don't add up.

Which brings me to point 5. Most residents are in Bands A-C. These aren't happy about Council Tax increases. What the Conservatives seem to forget is much of their support comes from Band D-H. Hurting these bands doesn't help with getting their supporters out.

What can the HDC Conservatives do?

They are in a pickle because whatever they do will be wrong. What they should do is admit they were wrong to increase Council Tax. They should commit to freezing council tax for the next few years and cutting council tax back to 2010 levels. They need to be honest with the electorate. The reason HDC needs to increase council tax is simply because Council Tax was too low for the level of spending. Either HDC has to cut spending and services to the current Council Tax level or increase Council Tax to meet current spending. They need to achieve this by holding a referendum.

The Conservatives need to be straight with its residents. Yes, the government cuts are having an effect but much of the trouble was historic. The only trouble will be are there enough Conservative supporters willing to campaign for a Council Tax hike? I doubt it. Whatever the Conservatives do at HDC they will lose and the longer this goes on the worst it will be!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Conservative membership falls - again!

The Conservatives still have a falling membership and it continues to fall. There seems to be no way to arrest this problem. The large number of members in North East Cambs is down to a large number of Conservative Club members.
M 2012
M 2011

NE Cambs 2780 2880 -100
NW Cambs 480 525 -45
Huntingdon 458 577 -119
South Cambs 499 522 -23
SE Cambs 256 259 -3

The big problem comes in the Huntingdon Conservative Association (MP - Jonathan Djanogly) which has seen a 20% fall in membership. This is a big loss. It seems where Council Tax goes up membership goes down.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

How can the Conservatives win?

The Conservatives in Cambridgeshire can win again and can beat UKIP. They need to do 2 things to win.

1. Freeze and then cut council tax.
2. Communicate with the electorate with leaflets

Sounds easy. Yet this isn't aren't the easy options. Councils such as Fenland and Huntingdonshire have little room for manoeuvre if at all. For instance, Huntingdonshire has to increase council tax and cut spending to keep afloat. So freezing and cutting council tax is pretty much out of the question for some Councils/Local Authorities. In any case all Conservative run Local Authorities need to sign up to the Conservative policy of a Council Tax freeze.

Since moving to Cambridgeshire I haven't received a Conservative political leaflet outside of the election period and sometimes during an election. This is awful communication. The only way to ensure electors get your message is by delivering a leaflet on a regular monthly basis or quarterly at an absolute minimum.

The Conservatives Associations are in decline. Huntingdon CA lost 20% of its membership in 2012. Other faired better losing less membership. The Conservatives need more members and friends to get their message out and communicate with the electorate.

If the Conservatives don't do anything to reverse the UKIP leap forward, come the General Election in 2015 UKIP will be in a position to take Conservative seats of Huntingdon, North West Cambridgeshire and North East Cambridgeshire.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Why did the Conservative lose in Cambridgeshire?

In two words - Council Tax.

The Conservatives are currently blaming "the national situation" and "national policies" and, of course, the County Conservatives did nothing wrong! But they did. Cambs Conservatives didn't institute the Council Tax freeze after year 1. That is not just the County Council. Conservative run District Councils, The Police and The Fire Authority all ignored the Council Tax freeze and the funding that came with this Conservative pledge.

Ignoring this pledge gave UKIP and the Liberal Democrats a cause to run with. Campaigning on keeping council tax down, UKIP ran riot in areas where they campaigned. The Liberal Democrats held onto their share of the vote to win in some areas.

Whilst UKIP did well, the Independents did well winning in Histon, St Neots and in Cambridge. They took two seats from the LD's and two seats from the Conservatives.

Labour did well in Cambridge by taking seats from the Lib Dems. But the Lib Dems held on to some of their seats.

The maxim seems to be ignore your own parties policies at your peril. The trouble is the Conservatives have yet to come to terms with not Freezing Council Tax. When they do they will realise they were wrong and not the electorate.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Nick Clarke still doesn't get it

I had to laugh when I found out Nick Clarke, now ex-leader of Cambs CC, lost his seat at Fulbourn. The result is below:

CandidatePartyVotes% Share
Nick ClarkeConservative84832.2
June Patricia FordLabour43416.5
David SmithGreen1696.4
John George Williams Liberal Democrat 1,180 44.8

The result in 2009 was:

CandidatePartyVotes% Share
Nick ClarkeConservative106435.6
Josephine Patricia TeagueLabour2357.8
John Neal ScarrIndependent90630.3
John George Williams Liberal Democrat 785         26.3

Without the Independent candidate this left 906 or 26.3% of the voting public looking for a home.

In his blog Nick Clarke said:

No one should be surprised by this as the minority parties smell blood. But it is a shame that a protest vote about immigration, which is a national issue, should derail an energetic and enthusiastic council that was gaining a national reputation for getting things done.

I don't feel this is right. True immigration is an national issue and Council Tax Freeze is a national issue which Nick Clarke and the Cambs Conservatives ignored and raised council tax. If they had frozen council tax and still lost they could have blamed national policies. But you can only blame if you implement policies in the first place.

Nick also reckons he lost because he moved to Papworth Everard. His own vote held up in % terms. A loss of 3.3% is not as massive as other divisions. So why did Nick lose? Notice there is no UKIP candidate standing in Fulborn. Where were those who would have voted UKIP gone. Many sat at home. A large minority went and voted for the Liberal Democrats.

Nick was in a bad position form the start. Not having a UKIP candidate meant the vote went to the Lib Dems. In the end that is why Nick Clarke lost. No UKIP candidate.

Nicks blog also shows how out of touch he is. Nick said:

Response on the door step in my Fulbourn division remains very positive.

IUTVT: Not positive enough to win!!!

This afternoon I took time off from my own division to go and help James Hockney fight the Waterbeach seat. James is very well thought of locally and clearly understands the local issues.

IUTVT: And the Liberal Democrat still won!

It seems that only a Lib Dem perspective can justify such a ridiculous statement.

IUTVT: And the Liberal Democrat still won!

I am playing in a charity cricket match Wednesday evening starting at 6pm, at the Needingworth cricket ground in aid of bowel cancer. The electioneering can wait for an evening.

IUTVT: Obviously electioneering couldn't wait because Nick lost!

I nipped up to join a canvassing team in Histon later in the day. Great response. Lots of indications that people get the financial problems we face and think we are the party to put it right.

IUTVT: The Conservatives didn't win here either.

Nick Clarke has an arrogance about him in all the decisions he took as leader were all correct. What the Conservatives need to get over is some of the decisions are wrong especially over raising Council Tax instead of freezing it. Until they do the Conservatives will keep losing.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

How near was my prediction?

I predicted the Conservatives would lose control. They did!

I also predicted the following result in seats:

Conservatives 30
Lib Dems 18
Labour 10
Independents 5

The result was:

Conservatives 32  (+2)
Lib Dems 14 (-4)
Labour 7 (-3)
UKIP 12 (+6)
Independents 4 (-1)

Not bad for a first try!