A disabled pensioner caught filming Tower Hamlets council’s open meeting on his pocket camera caused it to stop after he was told by the council Speaker to switch off his device – or be thrown out.
John Wright, 71, Alzheimer’s Ambassador for Tower Hamlets, was asked by a council enforcement officer to leave, but the pensioner realising he was not an actual policeman, continued his protest.
Wright expressed that the council was being undemocratic by preventing him from recording the proceedings for his disabled neighbors at Shadwell who were unable to get to the Mulberry Place Town Hall. The Council Speaker, Lesley Pavitt, subsequently adjourned the meeting for 20 minutes.
The confusion originated from a recent guide issued by Eric Pickles, Local Government Secretary, which underlined the right of journalists and citizens to film council meetings.
Speaking to ELL, Wright said: “I got so worked up I couldn’t properly get my point across. We’ve got the Prime Minister’s Question Time, which is filmed and televised. Boris [Johnson] is directly questioned at the London Assembly and filmed so why are council meetings not allowed to be filmed? Also, [he] refuses to answer any questions during those meetings.”
The video the pensioner recorded is a segment of Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Rabina Khan’s opinion on social landlords. The video lasts for approximately 15 minutes and can be seen here.
Wright told ELL he has yet to receive an apology from the council and moreover whilst he was recording for the BBC Politics show on Tuesday, he was once again met with protests over filming. “I thought oh no not again, this is exactly what I was protesting.”
A council spokesperson said: “The Local Authorities Executive Arrangements, Meetings and Access to Information (England) Regulations 2012 do not apply to full Council meetings. Instead they apply only to meetings of the Executive and its committees.”
However at the outset of the council meeting, Pavitt confirmed that she is “keen to move towards filming of proceedings but in a planned manner with proper protocols in place to support any new arrangements.”