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East Staffordshire Borough Council leader warns people to be careful as public allowed to tweet, film and blog council meetings

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: August 07, 2014

By Alanna Lintin

Julian Mott.

Julian Mott.

Comments (6)

AS new rules come into force across England that allow members of the press and public to film and use social media to report from council meetings, the leader of East Staffordshire Borough Council has warned people to think before they send an email or tweet.

This week, local government secretary Eric Pickles signed a parliamentary order to allow any member of the press, broadcasters or public to report, blog, tweet and film in all public meetings.

Julian Mott (pictured), leader of the borough council, has welcomed the 'right to report' to make meetings more open, but also advises caution over what is tweeted, emailed or blogged.

He said: "It's a good development in that the more ways in which the council can communicate, the more likely people will listen to what we have to say.

"There's been an increase in people using tablets and smartphones and it could be a cheap way to communicate.

"Councils should not be able to keep things secret and things should be out in the open unless a good reason can be proved for it not to be – if it concerns an individual, for example.

"But there are always problems with email and social media. People, in a fit of rage about something that has been said, often post or send something that they perhaps should have waited and calmed down before commenting on.

"People should remember that something posted on Facebook or Twitter is difficult to delete."

Moves to open the digital doors of public meetings to journalists, bloggers and the public follows resistance from many councils against allowing the filming or tweeting of meetings by journalists and the public.

Mr Pickles hopes the move will allow for greater scrutiny of the work of councillors, at the same time as "allowing them to view close-up the good work that councillors do."

A simple guide has been published by the Government on the changes to inform people of their rights.

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6 comments

  • mattlong  |  August 08 2014, 12:12AM

    I think what the Burton Mail should do is to shed some serious light on the lack of accountability of local councillors and the lack of transparency which certain political groups conduct their affairs with regard to how councillors are selected; why they are selected and when they are selected. No doubt someone like myself will be censured on the grounds of 'sour groups' and I look forward to being challenged and painting a just picture of the political scene in Burton on Trent. In my opinion, its a bankrupt political culture big time and it needs exposing. If anyone thinks I am afraid of being challenged for trying to expose this I'd laugh after I was told I would never work again; never have a family; never be taken seriously because I had the guts to support a mental health campaign in Burton and declare my personal history. These people that post comments anonymously make me laugh. Why should we trust people who are scared to take ownership of their own comments with ownership of our town?

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  • mattlong  |  August 08 2014, 12:00AM

    Yes a very good idea to capture town and parish council meetings I believe. Perhaps the public would come to realise which councillors turned up and which didn't. As an interested member of the public in one area of Burton which will for the time being remain nameless I have attended several parish council meetings where two such elected members are clearly not up to the job. One has not turned up and seems to have consistently failed to send her apologies too and the other was inexplicably unable to account for how her local grant had been spent in any detail. Monumental arrogance.

  • Porterboy  |  August 07 2014, 10:29PM

    I hope this also applies to town and parish council meetings as having attended many they are uproariously amusing at times and will make great viewing! From simple slanging matches at one another to jumping on tables and shouting at the tops of their voices and everything in between. I can't wait to see the footage!

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  • mattlong  |  August 07 2014, 7:45PM

    I consider Julian Mott a friend and happen to think he is doing a very good job of leading East Staffs borough council. I have much time for him. This being said I have to say that anyone remotely involved in local party politics irrespective of party affiliation knows only too well that it is existing COUNCILLORS and politicians more generally who we should be worrying about the misuse of mediated communication NOT the PUBLIC. If people were aware of some of the things which high profile local politicians tweeted about each other they would be shocked and to a degree disgusted. It actually made me feel physically ill when I used to look at some of it and I wrote a piece about it in the Burton Mail. If our leaders put more time into their work and less time firing off inappropriate or barbed tweets maybe the public would have an example to follow. Anyone present at Mayor Ron Clarke's inauguration who witnessed the sad events on stage would tell you many of these people are anything but role models. Do I think I could do better? No, I don't think I know I can.

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  • VotingRed  |  August 07 2014, 6:39PM

    Will it apply to HoC? Had my phone took off me when visiting last month.

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  • PointingWest  |  August 07 2014, 11:08AM

    Probably the only thing Pickles has done I agree with! Cllr Mott is correct to heed caution but common sense should prevail! It opens up our democracy and in the era of apathy it should help engage more people. Time will tell.

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