The full council in session snapped on an iphone – a first?
“Lights, camera, action” tweeted the cabinet minister as we waited in the public gallery of the wood-panelled chamber at Swale House.
In many years of sitting in town halls waiting for particular agenda items to arise it was certainly a first for me to have the secretary of state tweet a message of support to my phone.
But then communities and local government Eric Pickles does have a is a well-publicised passion for matters of transparency in local authority proceedings. (See how things unfolded on Twitter here)
And so we waited for agenda item nine. It seemed an age. There were the usual proceedings of a full council – the prayers, the wearing of chains, the reporting back of committee papers long since filed into a dusty drawer.
Then the issue was introduced and proposed by deputy council leader Mick Griffiths – who made the point that this change in constitution was not just something to accommodate me, but would have the effect of allowing anyone, including councillors themselves, to participate in meetings using digital tools.
As he spoke, little did we know at that point that, in a little piece of inspired theatre saved for dramatic effect later on, the councillor was actually filming some of what was being said on his laptop in the chamber.
This is a non-political issue and a free vote. Whilst the approach from an individual has been the catalyst for this, it is the broad approach we need to consider.
The modern world has moved on. This sort of technology appeals more to younger people and how often have we said we should engage with younger people.
There was even a little competition to second the proposal. Richmond councillor Linda Curran become the official seconder although admitting she felt “a little nervous” about being filmed while Leyburn councillor Fleur Butler urged councillors not to make themselves look foolish by behaving like the Welsh council which had a member of the public arrested for filming.
Of course there were a few nay-sayers – three people voted against in the final count. Swaledale councillor Malcolm Gardner was one of them. His objection being that, in his view, rules were all too often flouted on the internet and “he had no faith in that sort of media whatsoever.”
But the forthright views of many including Middleton Tyas councillor Jill McMullon won out.
We are here to represent people so it’s only right they can see what we are doing. We have to move with the times so let’s do it for heaven’s sake.
25 members voted for a change in the constitution.
So what happens next?
The council has a break in the meeting cycle during August but there is a planning meeting next week where the issue of Catterick Garrison’s town centre is being discussed. It would seem an ideal opportunity to open that debate up to a wider audience and also test out equipment etc. ahead of the council coming back in the autumn.
We’ll start putting the wheels in motion on that today and keep you posted here.
Plus we’ll be on the lookout for any more volunteers who’d like to get involved with the filming activity. We’ll post some further details on the Richmond Noticeboard in due course but if you’re interested in helping out – it could be now and then or on a more regular basis – please do drop me an email to sarah AT n0tice.com.
Update at 4.40pm: The specialist public policy website Information Daily has featured the Richmondshire case today.