A press release from the Department for Communities and Local Government released today shows that Eric Pickles MP is serious about opening up Town Halls in England giving residents, bloggers and journalists the ability to report, blog, tweet and film council meetings.
A new law will be put before Parliament to give the press and public new rights to film and report council meetings.
The new laws will be part of the Local Audit and Accountability Bill, which is set to be debated by MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, having completed its Lords stages.
Mr Pickles said
An independent local press and robust public scrutiny is essential for a healthy local democracy. We have given councils more power, but local people need to be able to hold their councils to account. We are taking action against town hall Pravdas which are undermining the independent free press, but I want to do more to help the new cadre of hyper-local journalists and bloggers.
I asked for councils to open their doors, but some have slammed theirs shut, calling in the police to arrest bloggers and clinging to old-fashioned standing orders.
It was Mrs Thatcher who introduced the right to attend council meetings back in 1960. It is right that we now bring her legacy up to date with the digital age. Councillors should not be shy about the good work that they do.
This new right will be the key to helping bloggers and tweeters as well as journalists to unlocking the mysteries of local government and making it more transparent for all. My department is standing up for press freedom.
You can read the full press release here.
Updated 29 October 0845.
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