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Parliament approves bill to allow tweeting at council meetings

The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament

 

Councils will soon be required by law to let members of the press and public use social media and video to cover meetings.

The Local Audit and Accountability Bill passed through the House of Lords on Monday night without opposition.

The bill, which guarantees the right of journalists and bloggers to cover all council meetings through sites like Twitter and Facebook, only requires Royal Assent to become law.

Communities and Local Government Minister Baroness Stowell of Besston said the new legislation would increase local accountability and transparency.

She added: “It helps local people to hold councils and local bodies to account for their spending decisions and it is the final step in a programme of reforms to local audit that will result in an estimated £1.2 billion of savings over 10 years.”

The bill would also give ministers the power to stop councils publishing a newsletter or magazine that they deem to be too political.

And it would abolish the Audit Commission, which assesses council finances, instead allowing authorities to appoint their own auditors.

Both Rutland and Lincolnshire county councils, South Kesteven District Council and Market Deeping Town Council already allow tweeting and filming from meetings.

Mercury editor Eileen Green wrote to the remaining town councils in the area asking them to allow tweeting and filming last year.

In October Uppingham Town Council decided to hold a three-month trial period allowing the press and public to tweet , as long as they did not disrupt proceedings.

This month the council adopted the policy on a permanent basis.

The council decided to wait for guidelines from the National Association of Local Councils before making a decision on filming.

Bourne Town Council, Oakham Town Council and Stamford Town Council, which was named by Mr Pickles in a list of councils opposing an independent press, do not allow tweeting or filming of meetings.

 

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