London Assembly Member for City & East London John Biggs joins the debate on the public filming council meetings
PUBLISHED: 13:44 24 July 2013 | UPDATED: 13:44 24 July 2013
A rather silly debate is currently raging about whether Tower Hamlets Council meetings should be filmed, or not.
I think it’s silly because to me it is pretty obvious that, subject to some very simple rules, they should be.
While I imagine that for a lot of local people it would hardly feature in their regular television schedules, politicians are elected to make important decisions on our behalf – and they get paid for it – and they should do this publicly and accountably.
They will occasionally be misrepresented, or misunderstood, or even regret something they have said, but that’s life, and it comes with the job. If they have self-confidence they can live with it.
Although the debate is rather silly, it does highlight a very serious problem with the current independent mayor and his chums.
This is that they seem to like working in the dark.
They reward their mates, cut funding to those who challenge them, prioritise housing repairs in their ‘‘favourite’’ estates, and fail to invest in enough school places. But they don’t want to be accountable to us for it.
The worst example of this is the council meetings, where the mayor’s friends rant and rave, and blame others for every failing, and where the mayor himself refuses to answer questions.
I invite any reader to attend a Tower Hamlets Council meeting where he, the most powerful man in the borough, sits silently, smiling, like a monk in meditation, only offering a three minute sermon that says nothing.
Question after question is directed to him but he simply smiles, and sits in silence, while someone else answers. Why is he so scared?
It is clear he is out of his depth. And that’s why they are scared of the cameras.
I look forward to debating with him, with or without cameras.
If I become mayor, I will meet people, I will answer questions submitted by members of the public and local representatives in the council chamber and I will invite the cameras into meetings. Because being accountable is the most important part of the job. It is an insult to act otherwise.