Give press a table at Tower Hamlets meetings, says councillor

Councillor Andrew Wood

Councillor Andrew Wood - Credit: Archant

Calls have been raised for permanent reserved seats and a table for journalists at Tower Hamlets Council meetings after a blogger was frog-marched out of the Town Hall in a row over seating.

Conservative councillor Andrew Wood of Canary Wharf is writing to the council to say the lack of a table may be in breach of laws governing public meetings.

Speaking to the Advertiser, he said: “I think there has been a gradual erosion of press freedom in council meetings.

“In 2011 there was a table, and it has been removed. Up to last week there were reserved seats for the press, but now it’s only if you have an email from the council.”

Mr Woods said the council is not providing newspapers with what the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 and other legislation calls “reasonable facilities for taking their report”.

He said: “I think we’re no longer following that letter or the spirit of this Act of Parliament. ‘Reasonable facilities’ for me means a table.

“Tower Hamlets is in the news all of the time for all the wrong reasons. We need to improve our act, and one way of doing that is to give full and open access to all journalists.”

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On Wednesday, blogger Ted Jeory was removed from a council meeting by Tower Hamlets enforcement officers after saying a senior council officer was “acting like a p***k”.

Mr Jeory had arrived to find seats reserved for the press had been given to members of the public, and was offered a chair at the back of the room behind a pillar.

The council said he had not replied to an email sent to journalists about reserving seats.

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Blogger frog-marched out of Tower Hamlets Council meeting in ‘p***k’ row