In June 2011 Jacqui Thompson, a political blogger from Wales, was arrested for filming the meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council.
Mrs Thompson has subsequently sued the County Council’s chief executive officer, Mark James, for libel for a letter he wrote to her in response to criticisms she had made of the Council on her blog. Mr James is counter-suing Mrs Thompson for comments she made about him on her blog. The court case has not concluded with judgement reserved until an unspecified later date.
When asked this morning to explain her arrest for filming the County Council meeting two years ago, Jacqui Thompson told Radio 4 Today presenter Evan Davis that she could find no rule banning filming of the public meeting in the Council’s constitution or in Standing Orders (the rules which govern Council meetings).
Putting aside the libel spat (although undoubtedly a very expensive spat – with the chief executive’s costs paid for by Carmarthenshire taxpayers!), I am a firm believer local democracy should be made as transparent and accountable as possible. And in today’s technologically advanced age web-casting of council meetings should be the norm. To not web-cast a meeting suggests the council, in my view, has something to hide (I hope Ipswich Borough Council chief executive Russell Williams does not try to have me arrested for saying that!).
The ruling Labour Party, especially considering they have a number of IT professionals in their ranks, need to show some leadership and open up democracy to the masses. I guess being Socialists they are not too keen on this: in the Socialist’s mind it is far better to keep the little voters in their council houses gorged on benefits and leave the Labour elite to get on with the business of running the lives of others at the Town Hall, isn’t it?
Well, I and my fellow bloggers will continue to report the utterances of Council leader David Ellesmere, which we are delighted to do. Decisions costing hundreds of thousands of pounds are made at the Town Hall meeting and it is our duty to report on them. This will be especially the case on Wednesday when the most important Full Council meeting of the year takes places to set the annual budget.