'Councils should open up their public meetings to local news 'bloggers' and routinely allow online filming of public discussions as part of increasing their transparency, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said today.
To ensure all parts of the modern-day media are able to scrutinise Local Government, Mr Pickles believes councils should also open up public meetings to the 'citizen journalist' as well as the mainstream media, especially as important budget decisions are being made.
Local Government Minister Bob Neill has written to all councils urging greater openness and calling on them to adopt a modern day approach so that credible community or 'hyper-local' bloggers and online broadcasters get the same routine access to council meetings as the traditional accredited media have.'
The letter sent today reminds councils that local authority meetings are already open to the general public, which raises concerns about why in some cases bloggers and press have been barred.'Good on the much-maligned Mr Pickles! I find it pretty shocking that some local councils have ben banning bloggers and press from their meetings (and thinking they could get away with it).
That has never happened in Reading, I'm pleased to say.
I have been tweeting from Council meetings and blogging for a little while now - most recently the Council's important Budget meeting. This has got up a few people's noses but reporting events in this way is now pretty much the norm amongst counciillors.
The online political debate in Reading has grown from what it was when I began blogging and is now pretty lively with most political parties represented. I think this is healthy for local democracy.
I would like to see more 'citizen journalists' attend local meetings and report on events. One of the best is Oranjepan who runs the reliable and well-informed Reading List site which aggregates local Berkshire blogs. I also enjoy Reading Roars and Bracknell Blog.
The new Coalition Administration of Reading Borough Council implemented a social media strategy as part of our plans to open up the processes of the Council and engage the public.
That said I think we do need to do more to reach out to people and involve them more in decision-making. For example I would like to see the Council introduce web-casting as soon as a cost-effective solution can be found.