Blogger banned from filming public forumBy Douglas Coulter
February 12, 2013
A blogger's plea to video a community forum was turned down by council bosses but has helped opened the debate on the issue.
Videographer and community activist Kazek Lokuciewski was initially given the nod to film the South Wokingham Community Forum last Wednesday to share with residents unable to make the meeting.
But Wokingham Borough Council later withdrew the offer, saying further discussion about the potential impact on the meetings was required.
Mr Lokuciewski, of Tangley Drive, who intended to share the film via his YouTube blog and social media, said: “The meetings are at 6pm, which is not great timing for people with families.
“There’s a lack of public engagement with the council so as much as possible should be done to make it easier.
“I was prepared to share it unedited and having the meeting available on YouTube would allow people to view it whenever they like and make the council more transparent.”
Councillor Prue Bray, leader of Wokingham Liberal Democrats, said: “I can’t understand what the reluctance is. We would prefer a much more open culture. We need to open up democracy and not shut people out of it.”
But Wokingham Borough Council head of sustainable communities Josie Wragg said: “We are interested in Mr Lokuciewski’s idea to promote the content of the forums through video and we are keen to discuss ways of letting more people know about what is discussed at them. We do, however, need to be sure that those involved in the forums are comfortable with what we do.”
The potential for communicating council business live has rocketed following the explosion of social media, with councillors able to Tweet from the chamber but making and distributing video still remains controversial.
Cllr Rob Stanton, deputy leader of the council said: “I personally don’t have any objection. However, we have to make sure people behave in a responsible manner.”
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, believes councils’ should let bloggers or hyperlocal news sites stream meetings online to help improve public scrutiny.
The forum offers residents the chance to have their say on the latest news about Wokingham’s Strategic Development Locations (SDLs), areas earmarked for more than 10,000 homes by 2026.
Mrs Wragg added: “Wokingham Borough Council wants to involve as wide a range of people in discussions on the major developments across the borough as it can and is considering the pros and cons of making the content of the forums more widely available through social media.
“We will continue to try to raise awareness of these important meetings.
“We would urge anybody interested in the forums to attend if possible, but those who cannot attend can send questions and comments on any aspects of the major developments to email@example.com.”