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?

  1. This is perfectly normal behaviour for Mark James, the vain and tyrannical chief executive of Carmarthen ,who destroyed the town by forcing through a ‘modernisation’ program which killed an ancient market, despite a petition of 30,000 signatures(twice the town’s population) opposing the plan – all in order to bring in Debenhams which killed the vibrant trade of the local, independent haberdashers. The other ‘side benefits’ that he promised never materialised. He is paid in excess of 200,000, yet spends long periods off on sick leave with ‘stress’.

    Point of information – you will find that the county hall is built on the site of the Castle, which at one time became a jail, during the Victorian period, (and possibly earlier) but is not itself a ‘converted Jail’.

  2. Surely locking people IN poses a ‘Elf ‘n Safety risk? The consequences of camera wielding peasants could trigger a mass exodus of councilors, some of whom may get trampled underfoot because their escape route is locked. Mmm.. its not ALL bad news then.

  3. This is consistent with some other councils – Southend do not allow cameras in their meetings or the use of mobile phones, not that this makes it acceptable, just that it’s a widespread rot which needs fighting on a national basis not just in a Camarthenshire.

  4. I’d like to see a copy of their Fire Risk Assessment (anyone got time for a FOI request?) . If it doesn’t have documented provisions for escape when people are locked in, they are more than likely in breach of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It would be a shame if the Fire and Rescue Service had to shut the building down until this hazard is addressed!

  5. I cannot condone this – but equally a public meeting does not carry with it the right to film. Courts will often allow the public into galleries, without the right to record the proceedings.
    If I invite you into my home – that does not carry with it the right to record what happens there (thank goodness!)
    With that said – does seem odd that a public body would not want a recording of how well they are conducting their affairs…

  6. @ Richard Brown

    Your home is not a public place, so is absolutely no comparison to a public meeting.

    Recording the events at a public meeting in any way (written, sound or image), without interfering with the proceedings of the meeting itself, is perfectly legal (and certainly was in the case of #daftarrest). It should be a right!

  7. They could try taking a leaf out of Cornwall’s book where we not only broadcast Cabinet and Full Council meetings live over the internet but also encourage public participation through the use of interactive chat, share and social media tools. We have also recently broadcast strategic planning and a scrutiny meeting due to public interest.

    Not that we’re gloating or anything :0)

  8. Dodger James says:

    We have a similar problem with Salford Clowncil , who are even more tyrannical than this .
    Ignorant , arrogant , undemocratic , and devoid of decency and integrity .

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