Croydon Council will have to allow members of the press and public to broadcast from Town Hall meetings as a result of a new law that will be go through Parliament this month.
The legal changes are part of the Local Audit and Accountability Bill that aims to close loopholes, and open up council meetings to the press and public so that the Council Tax bill is fully accountable to local taxpayers.
In June the Department for Communities and Local Government published a how-to guide called ‘Lights, Camera, Democracy in Action’, which explained new rights for the press and public to report on local council meetings.
However, a number of councils including Croydon were initially quick to announce that their Constitutions would not change and the use of audio or visual equipment would remain prohibited.
Despite this, Croydon Radio have been broadcasting council meetings without sanction following a successful pilot in February 2013.
When questioned in July on why Croydon Council were keen to keep democracy behind closed doors, Councillor Tim Pollard issued this written statement:
“Whilst the Council does review and update the Constitution in line with legislative changes and will continue to do so, the document published by the Department of Communities and Local Government is a guide rather than statutory guidance ”.
But the newly proposed legislation will put pressure on councils throughout England to comply with new regulations allowing the press and public to report, blog, film and tweet from council meetings.
Eric Pickles, Local Government Secretary, who spearheaded the new press freedom law said, “I want to stand up for the rights of journalists and taxpayers to scrutinise and challenge decisions of the state. I asked for councils to open their doors, but some have slammed theirs shut. An independent local press and robust public scrutiny is essential for a healthy local democracy. We have given councils more power, but local people need to be able to hold their councils to account. We are taking action against town hall ‘Pravdas’ which are undermining the independent free press.”