A hyperlocal news website has been successful in overturning a ban on the filming of council meetings.
Wrexham.com has published what it believes to be the first ever video of a Wrexham Council meeting following several rejected requests in recent years.
The website’s previous pleas to record authority debates had all been turned down by successive council chairmen but finally a request was granted to film an Executive Board meeting.
The video footage includes the meeting’s start, part of the debate and a vote at the end.
Wrexham.com co-owner Rob Taylor says that persistence has paid off and he hopes the video sets a precedent so further meetings can be filmed in the future.
“We emailed the chairman asking if we can film the meeting in a way that will not disturb the business of the meeting itself,” he told the website.
“Around an hour before the meeting we received a voicemail to say that the chairman ‘had no problem’ with us filming.
“Coun Steve Wilson,of Rhosddu, representing the Grosvenor Ward, was the forward-thinking, groundbreaking chairman who was first to say ‘yes’.
“After the meeting we did briefly say thanks, plus pointed out his decision was a ‘historic first’, his response was “Oh God!”.”
The meeting itself was to discuss a possible revisiting of the decision to close a local leisure centre, one that has provoked great debate locally and highlights cuts that are being made across Wrexham.
Video footage also includes a man being removed from the public gallery after an argument began over him not being able to hear properly.
The website’s editorial staff only filmed part of the meeting as they had not brought extra battery capacity – on the assumption that the filming request would once again be rejected.
“We have been trying for a while to get permission to video in meetings, aside from the basic principle of openness I do think people are interested in what goes on in meeting rooms,” added Rob.
“It is great to have a video record aside from purely text based as not only can it be referenced in the future there can be no arguments about who said what.
“This is a first for Wrexham Council, however it is one councillor exercising his power as a chairman rather than a wider policy change. Hopefully that will follow shortly.
“The council has had grants allocated to enable streaming of meetings, however this has not been placed live as of yet but is forthcoming.
“Hopefully in the meantime more meetings can be videoed by press, media, hyperlocals and the public with the chairs of meetings obliging the requests.”