A councillor has welcomed new laws to allow the media and public to film and record Kirklees Council meetings.

Former mayor Martyn Bolt who, along with current council leader David Sheard, pushed for a change as long ago as the year 2000, said meetings should be more open.

Clr Bolt, a Mirfield Tory councillor, was speaking after Local Government Minister Eric Pickles announced updated freedom laws.

Mr Pickles has signed a Parliamentary order for the Openness of Local Government Regulations 2014 which allow journalists and members of the public to video, audio record, blog or tweet from council meetings.

Kirklees Council already films some meetings itself and also live streams full council meetings on the internet.

The council also allows journalists and the public to video or record meetings as long as they inform the chairman before the start.

Clr Bolt said he and Labour’s Clr Sheard led calls for change in council rules 14 years ago.

“At that time there wasn’t the technology there is today, of course,” he said.

“Now people have iPhones, smart phones, digital recorders and even micro-cameras strapped to their bodies. What you get from these devices is often broadcast quality.

“Clr Sheard and I thought it was right in 2000 for greater accessibility and openness.”

Clr Bolt admitted the throwing open of council meetings was “new waters for some” and councillors had to be more aware of what they said than ever before.

“Councillors must recognise that what they say in meetings may be recorded and used in evidence against them, to coin a phrase.

“Councillors now can’t say anything in a meeting they would be afraid for people to reproduce.

“Parliament is broadcast so why shouldn’t councils be made more accountable in the same way?”

Former mayor Martyn Bolt has welcomed the new laws
Former mayor Martyn Bolt has welcomed the new laws
 

Back in 2000 council rules were changed to allow the media to film and broadcast meetings, and several big issues were highlighted such as the threat to close Old Bank School in Mirfield.

Clr Bolt said council chamber debates were not as heated as they once were but there were controversial issues to come – not least the threat to close libraries – where councillors would be under the spotlight.

“The challenge for all elected representatives is to engage with the people and allow the public to engage with democracy. That’s why this is important.”

Clr Bolt said one aspect not considered by Mr Pickles was how councils – including town and parish councils – would afford the cost of new technology.

Mr Pickles said: “Local democracy needs local journalists and bloggers to report and scrutinise the work of their council and, increasingly, people read their news via digital media.

“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.”