Corby Council has agreed the press and public can film and record a special meeting to debate the findings of the recent Audit Commission report on major regeneration projects in the town.
At a full council meeting on Thursday (July 4) a proposal to allow recordings of all council meetings, to begin immediately, was defeated when Labour councillors voted against it.
However, their alternative recommendation for the Audit report meeting on July 17 to be filmed and for the council to investigate procedures to allow a live webcast and recordings of future council proceedings was agreed. The matter will be discussed again in August.
After the meeting, Conservative councillor Rob McKellar said: “There is a very clear contrast here between a modern and innovative Conservative group, which is committed to openness and transparency, and a Labour group which is quite obviously stuck in the past. The council needs to modernise and embrace the 21st century but the Labour group is blocking change at every turn.”
The Liberal Democrat group voted in favour of allowing recordings of council meetings. Its leader Cllr Chris Stanbra said: “I have no objection to the press and public coming into this chamber and filming meetings. I also support a live webcast of council meetings.”
Labour councillor Paul Beattie said: “I am in favour of a webcast of our meetings but it would be foolish to do this right away, without looking into how it can be done properly.”
Cllr Mary Butcher, also Labour, said: “I am happy for any member of the public to hear what I have to say but we have to remember that film can be cut and edited. I would rather wait to get a live webcast of our meetings.”
Leader of the Conservatives, Cllr David Sims, said, “It is deeply disappointing that despite all the recent controversy over councils refusing to allow video-taping in meetings, the Labour administration in Corby still voted against this motion.”
The debate on allowing audio visual recordings of council meetings was a result of recent guidance by communities secretary Eric Pickles following concerns raised over some local authorities imposing restrictions on the press and public.
As Corby Council operates a committee and not a cabinet system, it is not obliged to act on the new guidelines.
Last month, Mr Pickles warned councils to stop using false legal objections to prevent people recording proceedings and issued fresh guidance to town halls that they should not seek to “suppress reporting or a healthy dose of criticism”.
At the open meeting to discuss the Audit Commission report, the council will make its own recording of the proceedings.
It is being held after an investigation into Corby Council projects involving more than £67m, including the Cube, the sale of land at St James Industrial Estate to make way for the Tesco store and a housing development on the Kingswood estate.
The auditor criticised the council for its mismanagement of the projects and for exposing the authority to greater financial risk than was necessary.