Cllr Mike Pitt Goes Rogue Restricting Filming at Cambridge North Area Committee


Saturday, October 5th, 2013. 8:31pm

I thought filming at Cambridge City Council meetings, while far from encouraged, had become generally accepted and routine however my attempts to film the North Area Committee on the 3rd of October 2013 resulted in the committee’s chairman Cllr Mike Pitt (Liberal Democrat, West Chesterton) publicly accusing me of “antisocial behaviour” and harassment from his position in the chair.

Cllr Pitt also sought to impose highly restrictive limitations on my filming; ordering that filming had to take place from a fixed position, and the shot could only include councillors. Cllr Pitt sought to forbid the filming of any members of the public.

In my view Cllr Pitt has gone rogue; he acted against the express wishes of the full council which, in April 2012, explicitly decided to remove many of the previous restrictions on filming which had, until then, been imposed, such as requiring filming from a fixed position and banning panning or zooming the camera.

Cambridge City Council’s current “Audio and Visual Recording Protocol” as approved by the full council does not forbid the filming of members of the public making contributions to meetings; but does enable individual members of the public who don’t wish to be filmed to make that view known and allows meeting chairs to suspend filming. Cllr Pitt disregarded the clearly expressed unanimous view of the full council when ruling no members of the public could be filmed and not following the agreed “opt out” system.

The full council’s adoption of its current filming protocol followed consideration by the civic affairs committee, which I contributed to.

If the chair of every meeting is free to disregard the council’s agreed filming protocol there is little point having one; it also means the battle to film, photograph, or record proceedings is one which has to be be fought many tens of times for just this one council, and will have to be repeatedly fought as new chairs are elected to committees. The problem at the North Area Committee has arisen since Cllr Pitt became chair, on the toss of a coin, earlier this year; the previous chair, Labour’s Cllr Mike Todd-Jones (Arbury) had followed the filming protocol and I have filmed meetings without a problem under the current protocol.

What Happened on the 3rd of October

I arrived at the North Area Committee venue in advance of the 19.30 start of the main part of the meeting. I was straight away approached by the committee officer; I asked if the planning section of the meeting had concluded and if the main part was due to start shortly, I informed him of my intent to film the meeting, so he could tell the chairman. The committee officer told me filming would be restricted to a fixed position.

I was surprised by this; I didn’t know precisely what it meant. I didn’t know if I was being told I couldn’t pan the camera or if I just couldn’t walk around the room with it. I didn’t give the comment too much thought, or weight, thinking all that matters is what the meeting’s chair says, what the council’s policy is, and what the law is on public access to council meetings. There is also the repeated guidance from Local Government minister Eric Pickles who says local council meetings ought be open to those wishing to film them.

The fact the committee officer, in retrospect, appeared aware of a ruling the chair was to make when the meeting got underway, suggests the decision to require filming be “from a fixed position aimed just at the committee” was made in advance of the public meeting. Perhaps there was a secret pre-meeting at which a decision to restrict filming was made?

When the meeting got underway the following was said:

North Area Committee Chairman Cllr Mike Pitt (Liberal Democrat, West Chesterton): We have someone filming the meeting. It is from a fixed position aimed just at the committee so people who wish to contribute from the floor won’t be filmed. If when you speak you don’t wish it to be recorded please indicate and we will stop for that minute but our responses will be filmed.

Richard Taylor: Can I ask why I can’t film the public?

Cllr Pitt: Can you ask why you can’t film the public? Because we don’t want to put the public off contributing.

Richard Taylor: OK.

Cllr Pitt: We are quite happy to be filmed ourselves because we are here to be held responsible for our actions.

Member of the public Michael Bond: And some of us would not consent to being filmed.

This ruling came as a complete shock and surprise to me. I think it is interesting that Cllr Pitt stated “we don’t want to put the public off contributing”, his use of the word “we” rather than “I” appears to be an attempt to distance himself from his ruling, suggesting others may have been involved in the decision; again this makes me wonder if there was a secret pre-meeting at which the filming rules were discussed and the decision to ditch the council’s filming protocol made.

The rest of the meeting proceeded; there were many contributions from members of the public, none of whom asked that their contribution not be recorded before speaking (while Mr Bond had of course made his comment about filming even he didn’t take up Cllr Pitt’s invitation to request his contributions were not recorded).

All public contributors were publicly named by chairman Cllr Pitt.

Cambridge News reporter Chris Havergal was present at the meeting. A number of the public contributions were reported live by him on Twitter (his tweets are displayed on the front page of the Cambridge-News webpage). My own contribution was reported as I was speaking:

I say this to make clear that making a contribution to a council meeting as a member of the public is not something which is, or can be, done in private. It is a very public action; it is common for those making statements at such meetings to find what they say being reported, sometimes they are quoted on the front page of the printed local paper. Minutes are of course published by the council, and often, but not always, public speakers are named in those.

Following Cllr Pitt’s surprise ruling I was all of a sudden given a moral and practical quandary. I had to decide what to film, and if to obey the apparent ruling or not.

I made reference to this dilemma in my live tweets from the meeting:

The ruling was unexpected, so as when making my request for Cllr Pitt to give his reasons, I had to consider my position on the spot. My view was, and remains, that Cllr Pitt had behaved inappropriately by banning filming of all members of the public. I thought the filming protocol agreed democratically and unanimously by the full council ought be given precedence to his ruling.

My understanding is that one of the reasons the professional media don’t yet film or record Cambridge City Council meetings is because of the potential for such dilemmas if councillors direct them not to film or record newsworthy material. A professional journalist could lose their professional credibility if they acceded to a councillor’s request that they turn their camera away from news.

I would like Cambridge City Council to encourage the filming of its meetings; and to enable everyone including the professional media, individuals, representatives of campaign groups, to film or photograph meetings, using mobile phone if they want, and without having to give notice. Currently we are a long way a way from that position even in meetings chaired by councillors who followed the protocol agreed by the full council.

I had not attended the meeting primarily to film it or report on it; I didn’t want to be thrown out before getting to make some points relating to the local police priorities, to listen to the police report, and to observe my local councillors during their opportunity to hold the local police to account and set their priorities.

I decided I would obey chairman Pitt’s ruling unless something especially newsworthy, or important, occurred. If for example someone had raised another case of the police not answering their 101 phone number for an extended period of time I thought I’d disobey Cllr Pitt and seek to film that on the grounds that getting those kind of reports to the Police and Crime Commissioner, who appears to believe he has solve the problem with the police not answering their phones, could, if the Commissioner took notice, have a substantial positive impact.

Had I known that one of the public questioners was (apparently so I’ve been told since) one of Labour’s prospective candidates for election in the area, I may have film his contribution too (asking the police to tackle drug dealing and use in vans parked on the pavement at the Green End Road / Green End Road junction).

I decided that if the police contributed from the public seating I would film them; and if any officers made substantive contributions from the public seating I would film them too.

Cllr Paul Sales (Labour, Arbury, Cambridgeshire County Council) was sitting in the public seating; this also posed a particular dilemma for me. Councillors sitting in the public seating areas of council meetings, particularly area committee meetings is quite common. Sometimes councillors move to stretch their legs or find a more comfortable seat; sometimes whole, or parts of, meetings are held in what the council call a “cafe style” format with councillors interspersed with the public sitting around tables. Sometimes particular councillors sit in the public seating to make a point they are “one of the people”; it is also quite a regular occurrence in Cambridge that councillors who oppose planning decisions being made at area committees, or who have another principled objection to making a decision, leave the committee table and sit with the public, however on these occasions they regularly still contribute, sometimes seeking to do so “as a member of the public” but more often seeking to retain their full speaking rights as a councillor and member of the committee.

I don’t think councillors should be able to “hide” in the public seating to avoid having their contributions filmed.

I decided that should Cllr Sales speak or vote I would seek to film his contribution but I would otherwise comply with chairman Pitt’s ruling.

As it was I didn’t decide to move my camera to cover any of the public speakers. One of the contributions, from Mr Bond, complained about the lack of tea and coffee for the public at the meeting! I did though move my camera slightly so that I could get the Police Sergent Jason Wragg into frame when he addressed the meeting while standing infront of the councillors. Cllr Pitt made no objection to this move. I also panned and zoomed my camera on a couple of occasions to cover the councillor who was speaking.

I did not even move my camera to record video of my own contribution to the meeting; though I have recorded myself speaking at council meetings on a number of occasions.

As the vote on the local police priority setting approached I noticed my camcorder had run out of battery power, so I began to film on my phone to record the vote.

I saw that Cllr Sales was voting from the public seating so turned my camera to record his contribution; this prompted the following exchange:

Cllr Pitt: Do not film the audience please Mr Taylor.
Richard Taylor: Cllr Sales is voting from the public seating
Member of the Public: But the audience is behind him.
Cllr Pitt: But the audience is behind him.
Committee Officer: That’s fourteen votes…
Cllr Pitt: Cllr Sales will you please join us at the table
Cllr Sales: But there doesn’t appear to be enough room to join you at the table.
Cllr Pitt: Make space.
Cllr Sales: I’m quite happy down here with the audience.
Cllr Pitt: Will you stop filming the audience please Mr Taylor
Richard Taylor: Cllr Sales was making a contribution to the meeting. You can throw me out if you like

My point here was to suggest to chairman Pitt that he has to make a decision; he’s made a ruling, which he has repeated, which I’ve clearly decided to disobey; on the grounds that there is a councillor voting and speaking from the public seating. The power a chair has is to consider a member of the public is disruptive, and to order them to leave the meeting, in the past at Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council I have seen this order enforced by the police, with the threat of, and with actual arrests.

Member of the public Clare Blair: That would so make your day Richard.
Cllr Pitt: I’m not going to make you into a martyr Mr Taylor, much as you would love to be. There are members of the audience who have expressed a wish not to be filmed, you heard them earlier in the evening.

All I was, and am, aware of was Mr Bond’s statement following the chair’s initial ruling at the beginning of the meeting. I am not aware of any specific requests not to be filmed by anyone else.

Cllr Pitt: It is an act of anti-social behaviour to act to fail to act to respect their views
Cllr Ian Manning: Applause (perhaps joined by a couple of members of the public).
Cllr Pitt: I agree that you have a right to film the meeting because it’s vital that people see the process of the meeting
Cllr Sales approaches the committee table
Cllr Pitt: … but I don’t think you have a right to harass members of the public. Thank you. Right. I’m going to repeat the vote now that Mr Sales, sorry Cllr Sales I apologise I keep doing that to people, has returned to the table
Cllr Sales: On that point….
Cllr Pitt: Oh come to the table. Right.

Responding to the Accusations

It was when I attempted to film the result of a vote on the area’s police priorities Cllr Pitt publicly accused me of “antisocial behaviour” and harassment from his position in the chair.

Sergent Wragg of Cambridgeshire Police was present when Cllr Pitt made his allegations but he did not take any action at the time, and I have as yet had no contact from the police since the meeting.

I am quite used to having ludicrous allegations made against me by members of the establishment when I’m doing what I consider to be something I consider right, legal, and in the public interest. It is still though a rather shocking experience.

It is interesting to see what is considered anti-social behaviour by those who set the local police priorities (the police report contains a large section on “anti-social behaviour”). I can now add filming a council meeting to “playing football during the day and “gathering on green spaces or outside shops” to my list of examples I’ve heard of what has been considered “anti-social behaviour”.

My Views on the Filming Protocol

I would like to see Cambridge City Council follow the lead of Cambridgeshire County Council and encourage people to film, photograph, record and report on council meetings.

There have been 280 views to-date on my 1hr 37m long video of the 20 June 2013 West / Central Area Committee meeting; I estimate that’s 20 times more people than were present observing directly. There are people who want to watch proceedings but who don’t for whatever reason, attend in person.

There are many videos I’ve taken of council, and other public meetings, on my YouTube channel.

As far as I’m aware I’m the only person (other than Andrew Bower who volunteered to use my camera to film a meeting when I was banned from filming myself) who follows the city council’s filming protocol and notifies meeting chairs before recording, photographing, or filming meetings. Taking photographs at meetings has become relatively common, with Cambridge News Journalist Chris Havergal taking, and tweeting a photo of a protest banner unfurled at a council meeting; a meeting during which there had been no filming announcement by the chair, so presumably no permission given, and during which officers asked me not to use my phone camera when I was seeking to use it to read the banner from the public gallery.

Councillors have also taken photos during council meetings, apparently without permission, one was of the same protest banner. The unfurling of the banner did not prompt any response from councillors who continued their meeting, with no reference to it.

I have even experienced a councillor taking photos of the public gallery.

It appears to me that the council’s rules on filming, photographing and recording meetings are not consistently enforced.

I am concerned the council’s requirement:

must be overt (i.e clearly visible to anyone at the meeting).

is open to interpretation and it isn’t clear if someone could meet this requirement by taking their phone out their pocket and taking a picture. Quite how one is suppose to ensure the fact they are making an audio recording is “clearly visible” to anyone at the meeting I don’t know; perhaps those seeking to make such recordings are expected to invest in large boom microphones with dramatic wind-shielding, or use large brightly coloured microphones with names of their broadcasting organisation on them as seen in American press conferences?

Possible Explanation for Cllr Pitt Going Rogue

Cllr Pitt was not a councillor in April 2012 (he was elected to his current office in May 2012 and previously represented Kings Hedges between 2007 and 2011). I wonder if Cllr Pitt had failed to follow the changes to the city council’s filming protocol which occurred while he was not a councillor?

Possible Actions

I considered the possibility of complaining about Cllr Pitt’s ruling and allegations. Ignoring the view of the full council doesn’t appear to me to be a breach of the council’s code of conduct for councillors, and in relation to councillors the only complaint the council will consider is that they have breached the code of conduct.

I am also considering using the public speaking slot at a relevant future council meeting, perhaps the full council, perhaps the civic affairs committee or perhaps a future North Area Committee to make the points I’ve made in this article. If I was to attend and seek to speak at such a meeting though there are other matters which I’d have to consider raising as more important.

I’ve decided to write publicly about what happened, hopefully this will prompt an apology, retraction, and change in policy from Cllr Pitt.

Rogue

By “rogue” in this article I am intending the meaning as defined by an online dictionary : “Operating outside normal or desirable controls”.

All Footage Obtained

I have made all 1hr 29m of footage I obtained while the meeting was underway available online.

Any Comments

I would welcome any comments on my actions during the meeting, and on what if anything I should do next, and if I should change my approach in any way when filming future council meetings.

My own view is that in retrospect I would stand by the decisions I made in the pressured and hostile environment of the meeting. I think it was right to ask Cllr Pitt to justify his decision to restrict filming (especially given the way the North Area Ctte generally accepts contributions from the public, I wouldn’t heckle a full council meeting in the same manner); I also think it was right to film Cllr Sales while he was voting and speaking, and to explain to the chairman why I was doing so.

I have considered simply staying silent in response to meeting chair’s rulings however I feel this can appear ruder than providing a brief response.

I aim to be polite, and to do the right thing, in all that I do. I think I achieved that during this meeting and Cllr Pitt’s allegations of anti-social behaviour and harassment were baseless.

See Also

I have written extensively about my experiences filming council meetings:

22 comments/updates on “Cllr Mike Pitt Goes Rogue Restricting Filming at Cambridge North Area Committee

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve invited Cllr Pitt to respond:

    I’ve also tweeted Minister Eric Pickles:

  2. Chris Rand

    Keep it up Richard. For all the councillors who put in so much time representing the public interest, one can’t help but notice how many just treat the whole thing as their little game and actually resent the public having the temerity to discuss what they do. The day we see the back of these people can’t come a moment too soon, and it’ll be hastened by the growing number of tweeters and bloggers out there, especially those with your remarkable persistence.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    An example, from the West Central Area Committee where a member of the public specifically moved to get in-front of the camera can be seen at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mW17a4r0Jdo&t=67m15s

    At a full council meeting where, under a previous protocol, the mayor banned filming of a public speaking section Cambridge’s left wing firebrand Tom Woodcock expressed disappointment at the chair’s ruling his contribution to the meeting could not be filmed.

  4. anadapter

    Well all the times I’ve seen Richard filming it has been from a fixed position; one that carefully includes councillors and not members of the public, so quite what Cllr Mike Pitt’s problem was I don’t know. People attending are told it will take place and have the opportunity to say they don’t wish to be filmed or to move in front of the camera if they do. From my point of view, that seems the best approach.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      There are all sorts of good ideas. The October 2013 North Area Ctte under Cllr Pitt was the first time where someone was sitting became important, it was the first time we had a situation where the chair’s ruling meant public speakers could be heard but not seen.

      The full council has considered lots of ideas for regulating filming; they considered them and came up with a protocol, allowing people to opt out of being filmed (either while making a contribution or while simply sitting in the public seating) which all councillors unanimously agreed on.

  5. Hester

    I fully support the filming of councillors at public council meetings. It’s an important contribution to giving people the tools to learn about their councillors and prospective councillors, and local government often seems opaque. Not everyone has the time or is able to attend council meetings, or they may move to an area and want to learn retrospectively what their councillors have done.
    The issue of filming the public I can see is more divisive, and it’s not one I have a strong opinion on. I was in the audience at the meeting: you may or may not have panned past me, and I’m indifferent either way. If there are prospective councillors in the audience there is a public value in being able to film them.
    However I do think it was wrong of councillor Sales to join the public gallery, regardless of the disruption caused by being late. Since there was at least one person in the audience who had trouble hearing, it meant his comments could not be heard by all members of the public as he did not have access to the microphones. Nor was his voting obvious if, like me, you were sitting in front of him.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      In relation to Cllr Sales only those who recognised him would have known he was a councillor; he could have been a random member of the public who’d turned up and decided to put his hand up when it came to the vote.

      (Those observing public meetings putting their hands up when it comes to a vote is something I’ve seen happen from time to time when people want to express their support, or objection).

  6. Cab Davidson

    I’d rather individual members of the public were given an option to say whether or not they want to be fimed – but as thats going to be really cumbersome and time consuming I think restricting camera to pointing at the ‘official’ attendees is fair. Problem here seems to be one of said attendees was in the wrong place.

    Richard, would it REALLY have been such a bad thing to politely suggest he should join the others rather than pointing the camera around to him?

    Councillor Pitt referring to ‘antisocial behaviour’ in this regard was bang out of line, whether he intended it as a joke or not. But you’re referring to his action as ‘goes rogue’ is also rather a loaded way of describing it.

    Might I suggest that the two of you need to step back, take deep breaths, and just chill a bit? To me this looks like a misunderstanding handled badly all round.

    Far more important is that all but 1 of said councillors displayed that they’re innumerate oafs who don’t understand risk factors in road traffic accidents. Criticise Mike Pitt et al. all you like for that.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      The council has an agreed policy; which all those who were present at the April 2012 Full Council agreed to which does give members of the public the option to say if they want to be filmed or not; councillors decided to implement this as an “opt out” system (asking everyone to make a choice either way as they came in wasn’t the option selected).

      I would much rather be spending my time focusing on the police priority setting process (that’s what I spoke on at the meeting myself) however I felt given the public accusations levelled against me I had to first write an article addressing and responding to those.

    1. Paul Lythgoe

      I wrote to Councillor Pitt expressing my dismay at his extension of the definition of anti-social behaviour to filming a democratic and public council meeting. He had the opportunity to dismiss his comments as a joke and failed to do so.

      I support Richard in his continued attempts to ensure that we have a transparent local democracy, and believe that attempts to prevent him from filming show an unbelievable contempt for the electorate by our councillors. I would go further and suggest that those making representations to the council should do so publicly and transparently. To do otherwise is potentially to give freedom to interest groups and individuals to influence our local council without accountability.

  7. 53 Sigs

    Hi Richard

    I do wish there was some overarching primary legislation to govern council reporting but as I understand it, Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 covers ‘freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority’. What I don’t understand is this: if a public authority is not allowed to do anything which conflicts with the HRA, how can they see fit to make up their own rules and embody them in a constitution which then seems to have more weight than the HRA? Clearly there is an urgent need for a clear and concise directive from the Secretary of State to all chief executives and town and parish council clerks, explaining that what they are trying to impose is beyond their powers. It could be argued that any council member or officer who ignores such a directive is likely to be in breach of the code of conduct by failing to treat members of the public with respect and courtesy, as well as a breach of Article 10 of the HRA.

    With regard to members of the public complaining about their ‘right’ to anonymity, there can only be one reasonable position to take – they should not attend a public meeting and then expect, or insist, some or all of it to be private. If you are going to speak or make any kind of contribution, then your name will almost certainly appear in the public minutes and, for almost any matter before a public authority, how can it be in the public interest to then claim some bogus right to anonymity, get upset, and disrupt the entire meeting? My own district council has adopted a sensible policy of HRA trumping supposed ‘right to privacy’ for members of the public. The alternative is that members of the public could make private representations, for instance in a controversial planning inquiry, and these comments would not be reported in the press.

    I must say that I think the tactic of insisting on advance notice or seeking bogus ‘permission’ is only going to be more disruptive, since anyone deciding to pop out their camera phone is going to cause the chairperson to jump up and down and start remonstrating about their ‘rules’ being broken. Also consider a situation where two hundred people write to the council to seek permission to record a short planning meeting. It is clearly not in the public interest to tie up resources in this way, and yet, to abide by the made-up rules, one might assume this is the only option.

    A sensible and reasonable directive would sort out this nonsense once and for all and I urge everyone to lobby for it as soon as possible. Otherwise I fear a costly judicial review will be the inevitable outcome of any major dispute.

    Keep up the good work Richard, it is much appreciated. If you don’t like freedom of speech, wait until you see the alternative.

    1. John Brace

      I’m glad not only myself understands Council’s responsibilities under article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Basically if a councillor tries to stop you filming a meeting write a letter before action threatening judicial review of their decision to their legal department. I copy article 10 below, but article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 in subsection 1 quite clearly states “(1)It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.”

      Article 10 – Freedom of expression
      1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

      2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

      Basically in order for a local Council to overrule freedom of expression they have to:-

      (a) have a specific legal power granted to them by legislation to do so (and they don’t)
      (b) it has to be for one (or more) of the nine reasons above.

      Maintaining the authority impartiality of the judiciary doesn’t apply as it’s not a court case, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence doesn’t apply as it’s a public meeting and the other reasons don’t apply either.

      Although after I made my local authority aware of this they did try to ban filming on health and safety grounds (I kid you not) because I was using a three legged tripod that protrudes less from my seat than my legs do! Anyway good luck, usually in an authority it’s the Cabinet that has responsibility for making sure the local authority follows the agreed policies, so maybe you could contact the relevant Cabinet Member and ask them to advise all Chairs of the agreed protocol and the authority’s responsibilities under the Human Rights Act?

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    The proposed minutes do not reflect the chair’s statement:

    People who want to contribute from the floor won’t be filmed

    The proposed minutes also don’t include chair Cllr Pitt’s explanation for his ruling, which was:

    Because we don’t want to put the public off contributing

    The minutes also refer to permission being given for filming; the council’s filming protocol does not require permission be obtained to film meetings; it does though require anyone filming a meeting to let the chair know.

    The directions given by the chair later in the meeting; ordering members of the public not be filmed are also not recorded.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      On reflection it’s actually very hard to interpret what Cllr Pitt is saying; on one hand he’s saying those who want to be filmed can step into the frame of shot of the camera (implying perhaps a fixed camera position and an “opt-in” system for members of the public to be filmed) and on the other he clarifies that he didn’t intend to ban panning of the camera [to members of the public who are speaking].

    2. Richard Taylor Article author

      Apparently in relation to his accusing me of “antisocial behaviour” at the last meeting Cllr Pitt stated:

      I’ve also thought about what I did and I probably overstepped the mark so I will give you a public apology for that.

    3. Richard Taylor Article author

      Cllr Pitt said:

      I would just observe, in passing, …

      I think I would say, most last time, there was a feeling from the floor that I sensed that a lot of people didn’t want to be filmed…

      I would just say that it’s one of the few times that I’ve got a round of applause in an area committee so I would ask you to reflect on that and how you present yourself on that

      While I didn’t wear a shirt to the meeting I was wearing my best jumper and I’d cycled to the meeting on wet muddy roads wearing white trousers they weren’t as clean as they had been when I put them on I don’t think that’s what Cllr Pitt was referring to when he commented on how I present myself.

      As soon as Cllr Pitt made his comment suggesting getting a round of applause indicated his restrictions were appropriate I thought that was a poor approach to take. We run our society via a democracy; not mob rule, and the views of a few loud people observing a council meeting shouldn’t have an impact on a chairman’s rulings or a council’s policy.

      Whereas Cllr Pitt appears to like immediate approbation for his actions I am quite happy to be the only one in a room, or group of people, expressing a particular point of view or carrying out a certain action.

      If I’ve thought extensively about a subject and have come to a view on it I will act accordingly; and while I will of course listen to anyone’s view whether it’s presented as a rational argument or in the form of a group of people applauding or booing I will consider it and give it due weight.

      Those who are not prepared to challenge popular opinion, or stand up to an accepted view, are not those who I would like to see elected to run our society.

      I don’t find it surprising that a handful of people, many of whom enjoy privileged access to councillors and council officers via involvement in residents associations and other groups / council schemes object to more transparency and openness in how our society is run.

      There are around 26,000 electors in the North Cambridge Area, around one in a thousand of whom form the self selecting group who observe the area committee, and of those four or five audibly expressed their view on Cllr Pitt’s ruling; that’s the context in which the “round of applause” needs to be viewed.

      I view comments such as Cllr Pitt’s asking me to reflect on how I present myself; without precisely identifying either anything which he considers I have done wrong, or which I ought to do differently to be immature and unsophisticated.

    4. Richard Taylor Article author

      One further comment on how I present myself at the meeting; I think I made considered points in a very concise manner and that is clear from the video. Given the rambling and inappropriate nature of others’ contributions I’m am surprised at the chair’s targeting his commentary exclusively at the nature of my own presentation.

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