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'Right to report' permits tweets and filming at council meetings

Regulations: Eric Pickles

New regulations came into force today allowing journalists and members of the public to digitally report and film all council proceedings in England.

The move was sparked after some local authorities tried to stop journalists live tweeting from meetings and in one case in Cambridge even threatening a member of the public with arrest for attempting to film a council session.

Announcing the measure, local government secretary Eric Pickles said: "Local democracy needs local journalists and bloggers to report and scrutinise the work of their council, and increasingly, people read their news via digital media."

He added that the new regulations "allow a robust and healthy local democracy".

In his statement, Pickles singled out Wirral Council for particular criticism for stopping the filming of a planning meeting on "health and safety grounds" using reasoning the minister described as "spurious".

In response, Joe Blott, Wirral Council’s strategic director for transformation and resources, said: “We are considering the practical implications of the legislation. However, we also need to consider the feelings of members of the public who might be involved in proceedings, and who may or may not wish to be filmed."

The new statutory instrument , the "Openness of Local Government Regulations 2014" will also apply to all public meetings including those of fire and rescue authorities, and Town and parish councils.

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