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Leeds City Council stops bloggers from recording public meetings

Leeds City Council has banned journalists and local bloggers from recording open public committee meetings, despite government advice opposing the move.

The Leeds Citizen blogger wrote to council leader Keith Wakefield to formally ask for permission to record meetings that are open to the public on audio.

His request was put to a committee "and unanimously turned down by the councillors present." The blogger quotes one member as saying, "Nobody can bring a recording device into the meeting," and another member as stating, "If the blogger wants a recording, we'll provide him with one."

The decision to deny a recording of their work came after the members were told of guidance issued in June this year by local government secretary Eric Pickles. This guidance states that councils should allow the recording and filming of public meetings, as well as allowing social networking entries to be made from those meetings.

Leeds does offer webcasts of full council meetings, but committee meetings are not broadcast to the public in any way.

Leeds Citizen said, "What's really dispiriting is that for all the fine words from the council's leaders about a bright future of more citizen engagement, participation and transparency, today's performance is a sobering reminder of the reality of Leeds councillors' attitude to those issues. They just don't get it."

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council confirmed to the the Guardian that the blogger had asked to record two committee meetings and that the members had refused permission.

She said the government's guidelines did not amount to orders, adding, "At the moment we have no policy in place so it's down to each individual chair. But we will be discussing the matter."

Last week, O2 announced a 29 August switch-on for its new superfast network, naming Leeds as one of its first 4G strongholds.

Image credit: Flickr (Ashden Awards)