The article ‘Live video ban reaction’ in the Times, highlights the gulf between the public’s perception of how councils work and how councils actually work, and that gap is still vast.  

This is one of the reasons councils signed up to abide by the Local Government Transparency Code which was introduced in 2015 and was issued to meet the Government’s desire to place more power into citizens’ hands and to increase democratic accountability.  It should have made it easier for local people to contribute to the local decision-making process and help shape public services. 

I remember clearly when all this was mooted hoping this would reassure the public of honesty and integrity of their councils. Well, it seems by your article some councillors on Okehampton Town Council haven’t got the message yet.

The main meeting of most councils is like the icing on a cake as the majority of work undertaken happens in working groups or committees, they are often too numerous to list but are likely to include planning, finance, cemetery, future development and commitments, and working groups can include representation from business or even local experts, so the need to be seen working correctly with clean and open hands is paramount.

So I applaud Julie Yelland and any other councillors who understand their duty not only have to do right, but to be seen to do right.  They work for the community and the community has a right to see how the council has reached decisions and how their money is being spent.  Unfortunately quite often these conscientious councillors are in the minority and the public seems not to grasp that what is said in some working groups can be predetermined and prejudicial to fair and open local government.

It has to be remembered that minutes are taken for committees and sometimes for working groups, but often only record the decisions not who said what. I believe that if you say something then you own it and you have to be responsible for your comments, this seems to terrify some councillors as instead of serving the public they serve their prejudices and their own goals. If councillors are vexatious and dishonest in their comments, the public has a right to know, and filming this will force honesty and integrity. I often say ‘paper is compostable, the internet is forever.’

Michael Fife Cook, Mary Tavy