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Shropshire town councillors reject motion to audio record confidential talks

By Charlotte Bentley | Whitchurch | Politics | Published:

A Shropshire town council rejected a motion to record confidential parts of council meetings, after it was put forward by a councillor who said they needed to be held "accountable."

Whitchurch Town Council

At a recent meeting, Whitchurch Town Council rejected a motion put forward by Councillor Andy Hall which asked councillors to consider audio recording the confidential part of full council meetings to ensure accuracy of minutes and to ensure councillors are upholding the Nolan Principles.

Councillor Hall said that the councillors should aspire to uphold the principles, which form a basis of the ethical standards expected of public office holders.

"If things are recorded people are accountable for what they say and how they behave," he said.

"Councillors behaviour could be better than in recent times.

"The reasoning is to simply address the fact that the behaviour should be a lot better than this as soon as the public and press are excluded from the meeting.

"I would like us to be mindful that we are all volunteers and we do this for the public good, and that should be carried on through all parts of the meeting."

Many of the councillors disagreed with what was being put forward and said that if they were recorded, the confidential part of the meeting would no longer be confidential.

Necessary

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Councillor Sheperd said: "It is absolutely necessary sometimes to have things that are confidential. Not everything needs to be discussed in public."

Similarly, Councillor Hamlyn said the concept was confusing.

"You are implying that the council is not upholding principles in general," he said.

"If you want to record something confidential it is no longer confidential."

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In agreement with the motion, Councillor Sinnot said the meeting would still be confidential, it would just be recorded.

Nicola Young, town clerk, said she had gathered legal advice and advice from other councils.

"The council can record confidential minutes but they would then need to include personal data and would have to comply with GDPR," she said.

"Freedom of Information requests can be made for those minutes. The council would also need to decide which parts are exempt. You cannot manipulate a recording so if something was exempt, you would have to stop the recording and start again."

After a vote, the motion was rejected.

Charlotte Bentley

By Charlotte Bentley
Community Reporter - @CharlotteB_Star

Community Reporter at the Shropshire Star, helping under-represented communities to find a voice in Shropshire and Mid Wales. Contact me at charlotte.bentley@shropshirestar.co.uk.

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