When is a public meeting not a public meeting? When it’s a meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council, apparently.
This morning, visitors to a supposedly open meeting of the council found the door to the public gallery locked. Before being granted admission to the gallery, access to which is guaranteed by law, visitors were required to sign a form pledging not to film or otherwise record the proceedings of the council.
Those that agreed were then escorted by council staff up the stairs to the gallery, which is plastered with laminated “do not film” signs. They then found the were locked in, and had to call reception for someone to come up and let them out. Carmarthenshire Council meetings are held in County Hall, a converted prison.
Planning campaigner and blogger Jacqui Thompson refused to sign the bizarre undertaking, and was thusly refused entry to the public meeting. You may remember Jacqui from an incident in June, where she was arrested and detained for videoing a council meeting on her phone, and refusing to stop. Filming proceedings is not explicitly forbidden under council rules.
A spokesperson for Carmarthenshire County Council, was adamant that requiring visitors to wear passes and sign forms promising not to do certain things, and locking doors to public places are “perfectly standard procedure,” common to “all councils in Wales.”
Political Scrapbook has contacted a number of other councils in Wales, none of which have these procedures in place.
What on earth do Carmarthenshire County Council have to hide?