Keighley case cited as new law is passed allowing filming in council meetings

Coun Sally Walker during her term as town mayor

Coun Sally Walker during her term as town mayor

Keighley mayor Coun Graham Mitchell

Keighley mayor Coun Graham Mitchell, left

First published in Keighley by

A NEW law has been passed allowing the public to film in council meetings.

The move follows a massive outcry last year when parishioners were ordered to stop filming Keighley Town Council proceedings.

And the Keighley case was specifically mentioned by the government this week as it announced the measure.

A parliamentary order allowing the press and public to film and digitally report from all public meetings of local government bodies has now been signed.

But one Keighley town councillor fears the decision could deter people from standing for council.

Coun Sally Walker, who was the mayor during last year's filming fiasco, said she stood by what she said at the time.

"It wasn't a legal action on the part of those who carried out the filming," she told us.

"With regards to the new law, I think it will put people off standing for the council in the future, knowing that whatever they say or do will be broadcast. It doesn't give people much scope for discussion."

Current mayor, Coun Graham Mitchell, says the change in law is proof the town council was correct in its stance.

"We knew that despite what these people were claiming they had no legal right to film," he said.

"The fact the government has had to bring in this new legislation proves we were right."

The legislation updates a law passed by the late Margaret Thatcher as a backbench MP.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, a former Worth Valley councillor and Bradford Council leader, said: "This new law builds on Margaret Thatcher’s successful Private Members’ Bill from 1960 which allowed for the written reporting of council meetings by the press. The new rules will apply to all public meetings, including town and parish councils and fire and rescue authorities.

“Local democracy needs journalists and bloggers to report on and scrutinise the work of their council, and increasingly people read their news via digital media. The new ‘right to report’ goes hand in hand with our work to stop unfair state competition from municipal newspapers – together defending the independent free press.

“There is now no excuse for any council not to allow these new rights. Parliament has changed the law, to allow a robust and healthy local democracy. This will change the way people see local government, and allow them to view close up the good work that councillors do.”

In July last year, 11 parishioners were evicted by police officers from a Keighley Town Council meeting after refusing to stop filming proceedings.

The council has since voted to allow filming, but only if people conformed to protocols governing how this is carried out.

Keighley MP Kris Hopkins has been an outspoken critic of the town council and he backed the change in law to allow filming.

He was unavailable for comment this week.

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