New law allows press to tweet and film at council meetings

A still from the Mercury's film of Stamford Town Council's August 26, 2014 meeting. Councillors vote. Photo: MSMP260814-004am EMN-140827-183645001
A still from the Mercury's film of Stamford Town Council's August 26, 2014 meeting. Councillors vote. Photo: MSMP260814-004am EMN-140827-183645001
Have your say

The Mercury broke new ground last week, making use of updated legislation to tweet and film during a town council meeting.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles changed the law to allow the press and public to film and digitally report from all public meetings of local government bodies.

Stamford Town Council had initially opposed the Mercury’s request to tweet and film during meetings in January last year, with some councillors raising concerns about accuracy and comments being taken out of context.

The council was named by Mr Pickles amongst a number of authorities “opposing press freedom”.

But at a meeting on Tuesday last week, councillors were happy to abide by the change to the 1960 Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act. Mayor Clem Walden explained at the start of the meeting that proceedings would be filmed, advising anyone who wasn’t happy to be on camera to leave. No-one did, and the meeting began as usual.

Among the issues covered on Tuesday was Stamford Festival of Fun, which took place over nine days on the Meadows in July. Wothorpe Road resident Janice Kellas-Kelly said the noise from the event had been “awful.”

She added: “The noise level was just absolutely terrible day in, day out.”

Mrs Kellas-Kelly called on the council to look again at what was allowed on the Meadows.

Coun Graddon Rowlands said the Festival of Fun had caused a lot of damage to the Meadows and he was “appalled” by the state of the grass.

“Unfortunately we are not doing our bit as custodians of this magical area which is the great glory of our town,” he added.

Coun Mike Exton, who chairs the amenities committee, said some of the damage to the Meadows had been there before the Festival of Fun took place, and a comprehensive repair programme would begin in September.

And Coun Maxine Couch said the Meadows belonged to the whole town, adding: “We have to accept that for a few weeks of the year it’s going to be used for something that Joe Bloggs in Wothorpe Road isn’t going to be happy about.”

Another issue covered was Stamford Skatepark. Town clerk Patricia Stuart-Mogg said the park had passed an acoustic test and was well inside the noise levels imposed by South Kesteven District Council. Coun Bob Sandall proposed a motion to ask the district council to lift all conditions on the skatepark. The motion was passed with one abstention.

Lincolnshire county councillor David Brailsford told councillors that the district council’s application for a residents’ parking scheme was likely to go before the county planning and regulation committee on October 6. He said the scheme would probably not be in place before Christmas.

And county councillor Martin Trollope-Bellew said officers were looking into possible sites for a tip in Stamford.

A number of Twitter users followed the live account of Tuesday’s meeting, interacting with Mercury reporter Alex Moore.

When the Festival of Fun was discussed, there were opposing views.

@RichardStamford said: “Why does the Council allow the Meadows to be used for anything EXCEPT Live Music?”

@LocalLivingUK said: “And the Festival of Fun was INCREDIBLY noisy!”, to which @Kennamanga replied: “Lots of people really enjoyed it. One week. No late nights. Do you moan about the fair? Get over yourself.”

When councillors voted to ask the district council to remove conditions on Stamford Skatepark, @roseofwakerley asked: “how long will this simple process take ?”

The @StamfordSk8prk account was clearly tickled, replying: “Paul, I love your sense of humour.”

Following the meeting, several people gave their feedback to the coverage.

@stamfordbill said: “Thanks Alex. I thought it was interesting.”

@Kennamanga said: “Genuinely interesting to read. Were there many members of the public there? Do you think local councils achieve anything?”

And @ThisisDaveT said: “Interesting update from STC Alex. Thx.”

Keep an eye on the @Mercury1712 Twitter account and those of our reporters for future updates from council meetings in our area.

Video from the meeting will be posted at a later date.