District council to allow cameras

AUDIO and video recordings can now be made at Harrogate Council meetings in a move to increase transparency.

Councillors will also be allowed to post on Twitter and Facebook during discussions, as the authority embraces social media.

Council leader, Coun Don Mackenzie, welcomed the changes, saying: “I think all we are concerned about is that people don’t record obtrusively, and we would expect them to seek the approval of the chair on the day before they go ahead.”

Regarding social media, he added: “We should all agree with transparency of our meetings, so long as it doesn’t disturb fellow councillors.”

But Coun Mackenzie said he would not be online during meetings: “No, I don’t think I will, I do believe in communication - as with my column in the Advertiser - but tweeting during the meeting, I don’t really see the benefit.”

Some Lib Dem members expressed reservations at last Wednesday’s full council. Coun Stan Beer said members needed a presentation about the changes, while Coun Reg Marsh added that the public could potentially edit footage before posting it online, creating a false impression.

Independent councillor Coun Andrew Williams laughed off the concerns, saying: “This is really quite farcical. If people want to see a pantomime, they will go to Harrogate Theatre.”

Pointing at the empty seats behind him, he added sardonically: “You can see how interested they are by the thousands of people behind me clamouring to get into the council chamber.”

Coun Margaret Atkinson, chairman of the committee which backed the measure, said: “If we pass this and it doesn’t work, we can always bring it back.”