'Are you hiding something?' Threats from Westminster after 71-year-old's video outrage

A still from John Wright's video. The Alzheimer's ambassador was banned from filming, but carried on anyway
A still from John Wright's video. The Alzheimer's ambassador was banned from filming, but carried on anyway
Alex Stevenson By

Anger is growing in Westminster as a local authority continues to drag its feet and prevent its council meetings from being filmed.

The coalition has already legislated to force Tower Hamlets to film its cabinet meetings. Now Eric Pickles is threatening to take "necessary measures" to force it to comply with his demand to let council meetings be videoed as well.

Opposition Labour councillors claim the mayor in Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, has overruled a 2012 council proposal for live streaming, the Docklands and East London Advertiser reported.

"I can't understand it," Pickles told MPs on Monday.


"Margaret Thatcher introduced a right for the press to be able to scrutinise local authorities. Had modern media existed as it did all those years ago that would have been included. Why shouldn't councils show the good things they're doing for the community?"

Last month Pickles declared that councils should allow the filming of councillors and officers at meetings, prompting 71-year-old John Wright to begin filming at a Tower Hamlets meeting.

The borough's Alzheimer's ambassador was asked to stop filming but continued to do so, prompting a 20-minute adjournment as he clashed with the local authority.

"My government says I can do this," the video shows him declaring.

"My government is filmed, the London Assembly is filmed. Why is your council not allowing me to film, or are you hiding something?

"Why are you not allowing me to photograph when Eric Pickles says I can? My government allows me. This is England. We are democratic!""

Wright is then told: "Until we can put in place procedures who can protect people who do not wish to be filmed we are asking people not to film."

The issue was raised in the Commons by Tory backbencher Henry Smith, who told Politics.co.uk afterwards that it was "particularly strange" that a ban on reporting was being pursued in the age of social media.

"Anyone can be a blogger, can report via updating to social media like Twitter or Facebook," he said.

"Their attempts seek to try and close that down is I think an incredibly retrograde step by those authorities."

The MP for Crawley said the council was on "thin ice" and said he supported Pickles' threat of further action if no progress is made.

He added: "Nobody wants these draconian measures on councils when they should be doing something, but if councils are persistent in trying to prevent reporting of meetings then it should be open to the Department for Communities and Local Government to be able to enact some more robust measures to ensure they do open up their proceedings."

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