Berwick Town Council has decided to record its meetings but rejected a proposal to allow the press and public to do the same.
Audio recordings will be made available to the public within seven working days of a meeting as part of the council’s effort to prove its openness and transparency.
However, councillors rejected a motion by Councillor Georgina Hill to allow filming, recording, the taking of photographs and the use of social media by the public.
Ironically, new Government legislation allowing members of the public to film, record and use social media during council meetings is expected to happen soon.
Councillor Hill, taking to facebook after the meeting, said: “The law will be enforceable within a fortnight but the council prefer to wait until we have to rather than embrace the principles of public access, openness and transparency.”
Councillor Tom Forrester accused his fellow councillors of ‘vindictiveness’ against Councillor Hill who embarked on a crusade for greater openness and transparency following the town council’s controversial takeover of the Portas pilot.
“Quite frankly I am ashamed my fellow councillors are unable or unwilling to embrace developing transparency in local government,” he said.
“Councillor Hill’s proposal is a good and fair one that is being used as a template for other councils up and down the country.
“I believe there is a certain amount of vindictiveness in this council against Councillor Hill which is completely undemocratic and completely out of order. There are councillors here who have had it in for Councillor Hill for several months.”
He felt the town council’s decision on audio recordings was ‘a poor substitute’.
However, other councillors expressed concerns that citizen journalism and social media coverage faces no requirement to tell a story in full or in context. Councillor Joe Lang, who put forward the approved proposal, said citizen journalism was opinion-driven and under no obligation to be balanced or fair.