Tagged: Eric Pickles

Letter reveals Nick Clegg’s secret plan for road charging, parking taxes and local beer taxes

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg privately wanted to give councils powers to impose new taxes including road-pricing, workplace parking taxes and local beer and cigarette taxes, it has emerged.

In his role as Deputy Prime Minister he also said councils should be free to impose a tourism tax, such as taxes on visitors staying in hotels, and to scrap existing council tax discounts including the 20% discount for people who live alone.

The proposals were set out in a letter from Mr Clegg to Eric Pickles, the Conservative Local Government Secretary, in 2011 – but were rejected by Mr Pickles.

The latest revelation about the behind-the-scenes debates within the Coalition government comes as Tories and Lib Dems fight a series of pitched battles in marginal seats such as Berwick-upon-Tweed.

While Conservative leader David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband are the only politicians with a chance of becoming Prime Minister after the general election, many of the seats the Conservatives have a realistic chance of gaining on May 7 are held by their Lib Dem Coalition partners.

Mr Clegg wanted councils to have “a much wider range of taxation and charging powers” which they would be free to use.

 

The aim would have been to ensure councils were “self-funding” rather than depending on funding from central government for most of their income, as they do now.

Specific proposals in the letter to Mr Pickles included giving councils “complete freedom over discounts rather than mandating them to offer specific discounts to single people, empty homes, second homes etc”.

The letter continued:

“There is a set of further tax powers that could warrant further consideration, including, but not limited to: fuel taxes; sales taxes; landfill taxes; workplace parking levies; utility taxes; ‘tourism taxes’; local airport levies; duties on alcohol, tobacco and other substances; and stamp duty”.

> He left out a Fresh Air tax. Pay-to-breathe…

And the Government should consider give councils charging powers covering “parking charges; speeding fines; waste collection; road pricing” and more, the letter said.

Mr Clegg told his Cabinet colleague:

“We should drive to ensure that local authorities have the greatest range of revenue raising powers at their disposal and are as unencumbered from central government restraints as possible.”

The letter was written as the Department for Communities and Local Government considered plans to allow councils to retain some of the business rates they collect.

But it has emerged now as the battle between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in marginal seats becomes increasingly bitter, with the two Coalition parties lifting the lid on internal Government discussions from the past five years in an attempt to embarrass each other.

Lib Dems are defending a majority of 2,690 in Berwick.

Both parties have accused the other of secretly backing plans to impose regional pay – which would mean public sector workers such as nurses or teachers were paid less in the north east than those in the south east.

And Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has said that in 2012 the Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, distributed ideas for cutting the welfare bill which included limiting child benefit and child tax credit payments to two children – cutting up to £3,500 from a family with three children – and means testing child benefit, which would cut payments by £1,750 for a middle-income family with two children.

Mr Duncan Smith also wanted to remove child benefit from 16 to 19 year olds, a cut of over £1,000 for parents of a single child, according to the Lib Dems.

George Osborne, the Conservative Chancellor, retaliated by claiming the proposals were contained in a policy document “that was commissioned by the Chief Secretary himself”.

In a statement responding to the letter’s publication now, a Liberal Democrat spokesperson said:

“This Tory spin shows their true colours.

“They simply don’t trust local people and want to govern every aspect of people’s lives from Westminster.

“The proposals in this letter could give local authorities the power to LOWER these taxes in response to the wishes of local people.

“Liberal Democrats believe the best decisions are taken by those closest to the people those decisions effect.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Apr 2015

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Hilary Benn shares memories of Durham Miners’ Gala – but says Labour cannot commit to funding the event

Labour figure Hilary Benn has told of fond childhood memories attending Durham Miners’ Gala, but admitted a Labour Government could not offer money for the under-threat event.

The Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, whose much-admired father Tony Benn was a fierce defender of the miners during Margaret Thatcher’s time in power, recalled the magic of the Big Meeting when he watched banners pass the County Hotel balcony.

But he said his party, which was founded by the union movement, could not offer cash to back the Big Meeting.

The event was founded by the Durham Miners’ Association and has a long and rich history as a celebration of the region’s heritage.

Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles seized on the chance to criticise Labour and accused them of failing to “respect their roots”.

The Gala’s future is uncertain as the association is struggling to find fresh funds, organiser, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association Dave Hopper told the crowd in 2014, though it will go ahead on Saturday July 11.

Hilary Benn, who followed his father into a career in Parliament and is campaigning to be re-elected in Leeds Central, said he shared Mr Hopper’s fears for the event.

“One of my earliest childhood memories was my dad taking me up to the Gala,” he said. “There must have been about 11 of us on the famous balcony of the County Hotel, including Harold Wilson.

“We watched the banners go past the hotel in the procession. I was struck by how it was a great day of trade union solidarity and it is a great Labour tradition.”

But it is a sure signal of just how tough times are that the Labour Party can’t offer any money towards the event.

He said: “The Labour and trade union movement have always been big supporters of the Gala, and we will do all we can to support it, but we can’t make specific spending commitments.”

The Miners’ Gala was first held in the city’s Wharton Park in 1871.

Numbers grew strongly during the miners’ strikes to attract huge crowds of as many as 300,000.

Though the North East mining industry is a shadow of its former self, the Big Meeting continues to pull thousands of visitors.

Lodge banners are marched through the city and hundreds gather at a field near banks of the River Wear in what is a proud celebration of the North East’s heritage.

Tony Benn was one of the great figures of the left that have spoken at the event.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband has told colleagues he will give a speech this year, sharing a stage with long-serving parliamentarian Dennis Skinner.

The association said it was left with a £2.2m legal bill after losing a six-year court battle on behalf of former miners who have osteoarthritis of the knee.

Critics, including Labour’s North Durham candidate Kevan Jones, however, say the association had £6m in its accounts when it was a union in 2007.

Mr Pickles said a Conservative Government would not offer any help but insisted the party’s plan to create jobs would see more people support the event.

Mr Benn said one of the things the unions, many of which will be represented at the Gala, will fight is the rise in zero-hours contracts which grew four-fold under the Coalition government.

Mr Pickles, however, said: “As it is predominantly Labour Party and trade union members involved you would expect them to respect their roots.

“What we can promise is more jobs and more prosperity and more pounds in people’s pockets.”

Source –Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 Apr 2015

Anger as North Tyneside councillors agree 24% pay hike – as they pass £40m worth of cuts

Tory minister Eric Pickles launched a fierce attack on Tyneside Labour councillors for “lining their pockets” as they pass £40m of cuts –while accepting a 24% hike in allowances.

The Communities Secretary said the move by North Tyneside Council members “beggars belief” and insisted the authority’s Conservatives will not be claiming the allowance boost – worth almost £10,000.

Bob Neill, vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, also waded into the row, branding North Tyneside Labour MP Mary Glindon a hypocrite.

He lashed out at the MP for slamming Government cuts in Parliament while her husband – North Tyneside Labour councillor Ray Glindon – agreed the hefty rise last year, which will come into effect on April 1.

Labour, however, was quick to hit back at the extraordinary outburst by accusing the two Tories of “political game-playing”.

A spokesman for Ed Miliband’s party said Coalition cuts disproportionately hitting North East councils left members with no choice but to slash services.

Eric Pickles said:

“At a time when rank and file council workers have faced pay freezes and pay restraint, it beggars belief that the Labour council is lining the pockets of its Labour councillors with a 24% hike in councillor allowances.

“To add insult to injury, the council is hiking stealth taxes on local residents to pay for it. I commend local Conservatives for their robust opposition, standing up for hard-working people of North Tyneside.”

 

Last week, the authority, led by Mayor Norma Redfearn, voted to cut £40m of cuts, which could see 350 council jobs disappear in the coming months. The allowance rise – worth up to £9,759 – comes into effect on April 1.

The council defended the allowance hike by saying the move was recommended by an independent body.

Bob Neill said:

“Mary Glindon is behaving completely hypocritically. She’s very quick to attack Government cuts – but stays mute when her husband and his Labour council chums hike their salaries while proposing hundreds of job cuts.

“The truth is, it’s Labour’s record that needs to be held to account. They left Britain’s economy in a mess, with record peacetime deficit and increased unemployment.

“Meanwhile the Conservatives, working through their long-term economic plan, have seen 1,000 jobs created every day since they came to office.

“The choice in May is clear: between a competent Conservative Government and the chaos of Labour and the rest.”

A spokesman for North Tyneside Labour Group said:

“As with all local authorities, allowances for members are recommended by an external independent remuneration panel.

“North Tyneside Council had some of the lowest councillor allowances in the country and the independent panel recommended that these be brought in line with the average of the other Tyne and Wear authorities.

“This is just political game-playing by the Tories. The real damage to local services is being caused by a Tory-led government who have cut the funding to councils like North Tyneside whilst increasing funding for councils in more affluent areas of the country.”

Mary Glindon was unavailable for comment.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 24 Feb 2015

Durham council cabinet backs 1.99 per cent council tax rise

Labour councillors have set themselves on a collision course with Tory ministers after agreeing to raise council tax by the most possible without triggering a referendum.

This week  Communities Secretary Eric Pickles challenged Durham County Council to avoid tax hikes and protect frontline services by selling off its £62m of “surplus assets”.

Hours later, the authority’s cabinet ignored the suggestion and backed a 1.99 per cent council tax rise – just under the two per cent that would have prompted a local referendum.

Assuming a full council meeting rubberstamps the proposal later this month , that will mean Band A householders, 59 per cent of those in County Durham, having to pay 33p a week extra for their council services in 2015-16.

The Government has offered Durham a grant worth £2.18m if it freezes council tax, but that would still leave a £1.2m shortfall from the £3.398m the tax hike is expected to generate – at a time when the cash-strapped council faces unprecedented cuts of £250m, including £16.3m over the next year.

Deputy leader Alan Napier said raising council tax had been a very difficult decision to take at a time of national austerity, pay squeezes and when household budgets are under pressure.

However, accepting the council tax freeze grant was not affordable or in the best interests of taxpayers, he said.

“This is a sensible and prudent budget. We are protecting frontline services as best we can,” he said.

The council only learned how much money it will get from central government last Wednesday (February 4).

The final settlement brought some unexpected good news – an extra £966,000 for welfare help and social care. But Cllr Napier said this was still £1m less than for this year.

The overall revenue budget totals £409.9m. A capital programme of £366m to 2017 is also included, with £93m for building new and improving existing schools, £101m for maintaining and improving roads, £18m for broadband, £14m for industrial estates and £8m for town centres.

About £9m from the council’s reserves would be spent on supporting adult social care, staff pay increases and making other savings.

Councillors would see no increase in their allowance and their mileage rate cut to 45p.

By next March, the council expects to have cut 1,950 jobs from its 2010 workforce.

Council house and garage rents are set to increase by an average of 2.2 per cent.

Labour wants to continue its pioneering Local Council Tax Support Scheme, meaning no working-age council tax benefit claimant has their payment reduced.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups want council tax frozen. Final decisions will be made on Wednesday, February 25.

Source – Durham Times,  12 Feb 2015

Government blames North East councils for cuts of £240 million

Ministers have accused North East councils of sitting on unused land and property which they could sell to protect services.

But local authorities facing massive spending cuts of more than £240 million ridiculed the claims – and pointed out that there are strict rules preventing them from selling the land to fund services.

And the comments provoked an angry reaction from Labour, who accused the Government of imposing higher cuts on urban councils in the North East than wealthy parts of the country.

Ministers launched the attack on councils which are reducing services and raising council tax, claiming that they had nobody to blame but themselves.

The Association of North East Councils has warned that crucial services such as care for vulnerable children are in danger of collapse as massive cuts in council funding wipe almost quarter of a billion pounds off budgets across the North East this year.

It says the true impact of Government spending cuts has been hidden because authorities have succeeded in “raiding” other services and diverting funds where they are needed most – but they have reached a point where this just won’t be possible any more.

But Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles issued a statement claiming councils have large sources of untapped revenue including money held in reserve, assets such as property or land, and council tax arrears which have gone uncollected.

And his department published a league table highlighting the worst offenders, with County Durham named as one of the authorities with high levels of surplus assets. The authority is sitting on assets worth £62 million, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The department also named Gateshead as an authority with high levels of surplus assets, worth £49 million.

Government figures also showed that Northumberland council had reserves of £96.4 million while Newcastle-upon-Tyne had reserves of £78.9 million.

Mr Pickles said:

“Reserves have rocketed up in the past few years and councils could be making better use of assets to keep taxes down and protect frontline services, while at the same time doing more to stop the billions they are losing to fraud and collecting more Council Tax arrears.”

But the claims were dismissed by Councillor Alan Napier, Deputy Leader of Durham County Council, who said:

“We do have surplus assets of £62 million which includes both land and buildings, including former school sites.

“Most of these sites are either being sold, up for sale or in the process of being put up for sale. When sold, our hands are tied as to what we can spend the money on as the receipts are ring-fenced and can only be spent on new capital items such as buildings, vehicles or infrastructure.

“I would have expected Mr Pickles to know that receipts from surplus assets cannot be used to reduce council tax or protect front line services ”

Gateshead Council’s strategic director of corporate services and governance, Mike Barker, said

“£41m illion of assets which have been classed as ‘surplus to requirements’ actually relate to land which has already been contractually committed towards building much needed, good quality, affordable housing across the borough.

“The development of this land is already underway on sites at Deckham, Bensham and Saltwell, and Birtley. Over the next 15 years, the joint venture partnership between ourselves, Galliford Try and Home Group will build thousands of new homes on 19 different sites across Gateshead; bringing jobs, investment, and regeneration to many areas.”

The devastating impact of Government cuts on council services was confirmed in a report by the National Audit Office late last year, which warned that authorities were reaching a point where they couldn’t cope.

It said:

“While local authorities have maintained financial resilience overall, some – particularly among metropolitan districts – are now showing persistent signs of financial stress, such as unplanned in-year reductions in service spend.

“Looking to the future, there is increased uncertainty about how local authorities can manage further possible falls in income.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  11 Feb 2015

Blyth MP says North East has ‘unfair deal’ after missing out on emergency social care funding

A North East MP has accused Government ministers of ignoring the region’s “first class” healthcare when dishing out emergency cash awards.

This week, Westminster approved a £25m injection into social care for older people in areas where hospitals are facing the biggest problems over delayed patient discharges.

But of the 65 local authorities in England to receive the money, which must be spent by the end of March to ease pressure on wards by moving patients into care in the community, none are in the North East.

Ronnie Campbell, Labour member for Blyth Valley, claims the funding is “almost all southern based where local authorities haven’t been on the receiving end of same level of ConDem cuts as Northern authorities” which have still managed to provide “a first class service”.

And he accused the Government of bailing out councils who are failing to organise their discharges from hospitals properly, while not rewarding Northumberland, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Newcastle councils who are facing up to the challenges.

He explained:

“I’m very worried that local authorities like Northumberland are having their budgets hacked to bits and yet they’re coping with the transfer from NHS care to local authority care.

“They’re under enormous pressure to deliver other services to the general public yet Eric Pickles and Jeremy Hunt are rewarding councils which happen to have marginal constituencies in them. 

“This doesn’t seem to be the ‘fair deal for Northumberland’ local Tories are trumpeting – in fact, this ranks up there with the 20% cut to transport funding and £3m further cuts to the council budget as an example of how the ConDems are targeting the North for purely party political reasons.”

The Department of Health emergency fund was authorised by a special ministerial committee, which has met weekly to help the NHS cope with winter pressures.

According to NHS England, one in five hospital beds was occupied over the Christmas period by someone ready for discharge but unable to move on because of blockages in the system. About a third of these blockages were attributed to lack of social care services.

The average cash boost for each of the 65 councils is £380,000, with money to be spent on extra support for people in their homes and short-term places in residential homes.

Responding to Mr Campbell, Coun Peter Jackson, Tory leader on Northumberland County Council, said:

“The truth is that this Government has fully protected NHS funding from day one.

“Rather than acknowledge this or the indication that our local health care services are performing much better than others across the country, Labour are once again resorting to scaremongering tactics and displaying financial illiteracy.

“Mr Campbell appears to be deliberately misleading the public by confusing local government and health care funding.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department of Health added:

“We planned for winter earlier than ever this year. We constantly review what additional measures we can take to ease the pressure on services.

“In preparation for the Better Care Fund, the NHS and local authorities are already preparing joint plans to work together better, keep people well and avoid hospital admissions. This money helps speed up that work for this winter.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Jan 2015

Cuts To Local Welfare Schemes ‘A Christmas Present To Loan Sharks’

This articlewas written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Thursday 18th December 2014

Poverty charities and councils have warned that the government’s refusal to guarantee funding for local welfare schemes will force low income families in crisis to turn to food banks and loan sharks.

The government announced in January that it would no longer provide £180m central funding for local welfare assistance schemes operated by English local authorities after April 2015, triggering a cross-party revolt by Conservative MPs and council leaders, Labour councils and charities.

It is believed that the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, attempted to secure £70m for local welfare to announce in Thursday’s local government finance settlement, but was blocked by the chancellor, George Osborne.

The local government minister Kris Hopkins told the Commons on Thursday that there would be no additional funding for local welfare, although he encouraged councils to make further formal representations, raising faint hopes that the government may revisit the decision in February.

Local welfare provision offers emergency help for a range of vulnerable people who fall into unexpected crisis, including women fleeing domestic violence, homeless people, pregnant mothers, care leavers, pensioners and people suffering from chronic physical and mental health problems.

Some in Whitehall are understood to be concerned that cutting local welfare will provide additional fuel to critics who argue the government does not care about poverty. A cross-party report on food banks this month urged the government to protect local welfare assistance, saying food bank referrals would increase if it was not reinstated.

Hopkins said that although there would be no new funds for local welfare, ministers would outline a notional figure of £130m in the overall grant allocations to councils – a cut of £50m – although this would not be ring-fenced, meaning councils can spend it on other services.

Cllr Andy Hull, Labour-run Islington council’s executive member for finance, called the decision not to provide local welfare funding “an early Christmas present from the government for loan sharks and payday lenders.”

He added: “This safety net supports families to stay together, helps people sustain their tenancies and keeps kids out of care. It is a lifeline, not a luxury. Now, thanks to the government, it lies in shreds.”

The Local Government Association said almost three-quarters of local authorities will abandon or scale back local welfare schemes unless they receive government funding. Two county councils, Nottinghamshire and Oxfordshire, have already closed their schemes.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:

“In the long-run tax payers will foot a higher bill if low-income families can’t stop a one-off, unforeseen expense from becoming a full-blown crisis – and the human cost will be high. For mothers leaving violent partners or youngsters moving on from homelessness or care, the schemes can make the difference between managing or not.”

Helen Middleton of the Furniture Reuse Network, whose member charities work closely with councils on helping low-income families, said the decision showed the government had “no real understanding of the levels of poverty in this country”.

Homelessness charity Centrepoint said young homeless people used local welfare schemes as a vital safety net:

“It’s completely unacceptable that young people who have fought to turn their lives around after facing homelessness are once again left to sleep on floors for lack of something as basic as a bed.

“Ministers must look carefully at responses from councils to this announcement and consider whether their proposal really reflects the level of poverty in many of our communities.”

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said:

“The government’s decision to reduce annual funding from £172m to £130m will make it harder for councils to support vulnerable families facing a crisis. The requirement that town halls fund their schemes from within existing budgets may create a postcode lottery for many families in poverty.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  18 Dec 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/cuts-local-welfare-schemes-christmas-present-loan-sharks/

Tory election win would ‘end local council services’, Durham council leader claims

Another Tory-led government would spell the end of local services as we know them, a Labour council leader has claimed.

Durham County Council chief Simon Henig issued the stark warning as his cabinet discussed making another £16.2m of cuts next year, taking the total imposed at the North-East’s biggest council between 2010 and 2018 to around £250m.

Around 2,000 jobs have been lost.

Cllr Henig said Chancellor George Osborne’s spending plans for beyond the General Election and towards 2020, announced in last week’s Autumn Statement, would mean ‘the end of local council services as we currently recognise them‘ and told the County Hall meeting: “There’s now a very clear choice ahead of us in 2015, which I believe will shape the country for a generation to come.”

 

Local councils were expecting to hear how much money they would get from central government for the year ahead today (Wednesday), but the announcement was delayed until tomorrow (Thursday).

Durham faces much tougher cuts, of £32m and £39.1m, in 2016 and 2017 and 2015’s total would have been higher had councillors not opted to raid the authority’s reserves, to the tune of £10m.

The council has already cut around £130m and next year’s savings include £8.5m from children and adults services and £933,000 from introducing charges for garden waste collection.

The figures are based on a council tax rise of two per cent, although that may yet require a local referendum if Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has his way.

 Durham’s deputy leader Alan Napier said the Coalition had been an economic disaster and cabinet member Morris Nicholls said dealing with the cuts was “like being in the trenches”.

Opposition groups on the council have welcomed the use of the authority’s reserves and are expected to announce alternative budget proposals in the weeks to come, ahead of final decisions in February.

Source – Durham Times,  17 Dec 2014

Durham County Council using reserves to protect services from deeper cuts

Labour chiefs at the North-East’s biggest council are drawing on cash reserves to stave off deeper spending cuts until after next year’s General Election.

Durham County Council must save another £16.2m in the financial year from April, the lowest annual figure since the last Election, taking the total cuts imposed between 2010 and 2018 to nearly £250m.

However, the figure then rockets to £32m and £39.1m for the following two years and the 2014-15 total would have been much higher had officials were not spending £10m from reserves.

Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has repeatedly lambasted Labour councils for cutting frontline services while sitting on huge reserves.

Labour chiefs at Durham have to date resisted demands to spend their nest egg, but it is thought they have relented now in the hope of avoiding the deeper cuts planned for 2016 to 2018 if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister next May.

Durham’s Labour leader Simon Henig said: “Overall spending totals will be the same but we’re lobbying hard for a fairer distribution.

“If that happens, our savings targets will be reduced.”

Next year’s cuts include £8.5m from children and adults services, including £4m from a review of management and support services; and £2.6m from neighbourhood services, including £933,000 from introducing charges for garden waste collection.

The sums are based on an assumption council tax will rise every year by two per cent, although specific decisions are taken each February.

The authority expects to have cut £136.9m by April, including £23m this year.

Opposition groups the Derwentside Independents, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives welcomed the use of reserves, with Lib Dem leader Amanda Hopgood saying they currently stood at £160m.

Each opposition group will produce alternative budget proposals in coming weeks following talks with council directors.

The authority’s Labour cabinet will discuss its 2015-16 budget at County Hall on Wednesday, December 17, before the full council takes the final decisions in February.

Durham imposed a 1.99 per cent council tax hike this year, the first rise since 2010. Its highest single year spending cut was £66m, back in 2011-12.
Source –  Durham Times,  10 Dec 2014

Hetton-le-Hole : Democracy questioned as councillors walk-out over iPad video

Councillors have been slammed for walking out of a meeting – because a member of the public was filming proceedings.

Members of the Labour-controlled Hetton Town Council walked out of October’s monthly meeting after Kay Rowham started videoing it on her iPad.

The retired IT and telecoms worker took advantage of new Parliamentary legislation, signed by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles in August, that anyone can record, film or tweet from public meetings of local government bodies.

However, her actions sparked a mass exit and now councillors have been told “democracy cannot live behind closed doors” by a council watchdog.

I go to most of the meetings and I’ve just got a new iPad,”  said Mrs Rowham, of Hetton. “When the rules changed, the town clerk advised members of it and I believe they all got copies.

“I did take a paper copy with me just in case, because they are not very public friendly. I go every month and I take notes, just to keep an eye on them.”

Mrs Rowham, who received 25 per cent of votes as a UKIP candidate in the May city council election for Doxford ward, started filming four minutes into the meeting.

She then posted the 12-minute, eight-second clip on video-sharing website YouTube under the name KittyKat.

“From the moment I started, a couple of the councillors looked at me, saying ‘look, she’s recording it’,” she said.

There was nothing contentious going on. You could see they got uncomfortable and asked me to stop filming. They refused to carry on the meeting while I was filming.

“Coun Anderson said they should call the police. We weren’t being disruptive, it was the councillors causing the uproar.”

On the footage, town clerk John Price can be heard trying to explain to members that the council has to make the provision to allow filming

Despite this, Mayor Tony Wilkinson suspended the meeting, saying: “My ruling is that there shall be no recording until such a time that this is adopted by this council.”

In an explanation of the legislation, the Government website at http://www.gov.uk states:

“The new law aims to end active resistance amongst some councils to greater openness.

“Councils have even called the police to arrest people who tried to report, tweet or film council meetings, or claimed spurious ‘health and safety’ or ‘reputational risks’ to digital reporting.”

Coun Keith Hepple, leader of Hetton Town Council, said:

The town council meeting on Monday, October 20, 2014, was suspended by the Mayor due to disruptive behaviour by a person.

“This was whilst discussing another issue. The town council is adopting a similar policy and procedure to meet the new legislation and whereby meetings can be recorded and filmed.

“Guidance has been taken from the National Association of Local Councils and their guidelines, and from discussions with other neighbouring local authorities, to ensure the council or its committees will be fully aware of the requirements and constraints of such.”

A spokesman for Labour North said: “This is a matter for the town council to look into under their complaints procedure and not for the Labour Party.”

Source – Sunderland Echo,  05 Nov 2014