Local Democracy Reporter denied access to public meeting

editorial image

A BBC Local Democracy Reporter was denied access to a public meeting yesterday (Wednesday) where proposals to end homelessness were discussed.

Glasgow City Integration Joint Board was scheduled to discuss the development of the rapid rehousing transition plan – a national objective to eradicate homelessness within five years.

According to the online schedule, there were a total of 22 items on the agenda.

But we can’t tell you what the outcome of any of the issues as the local democracy reporter was not allowed to attend the meeting.

During the meeting a protest from the Scottish Tenants Association was scheduled to take place.

The reporter was told she couldn’t enter the meeting because “she was technically with the protest group”.

The four protesters were, however, allowed to access to the meeting room before the journalist was asked to leave the building.

Colin Edgar,  head of communications, Glasgow City Council has apologised for yesterday’s incident.

He said: “This should not have happened and I am very sorry that it did.

“Of course our meeting are open to press and public, except in very limited circumstances, and that will always be the case.”

It’s the second time in less than a year, a local democracy reporter has had trouble accessing information at public meetings.

In December Inspector Craig Walker, of Police Scotland, was warned at a Glasgow City Council meeting by the clerk not to present crime statistics as a reporter was present.

Councillors were then informed they would be given statistics for the north of Glasgow in private.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service created up to 150 new journalism jobs to help fill a gap in the reporting of local democracy issues across the UK.

Journalists are funded by the BBC as part of its latest charter commitment but are employed by regional news organisations. 

The BBC did not comment on the issue.

John McLellan, director, Scottish Newspaper Society, said that situation was unacceptable.

Mr McLellan said: “Local accountability relies on the free and open reporting  of public meetings and the deliberations which take place, and it is absolutely unacceptable for press officers to deny bona fide reporters access to public meetings.

“Local Democracy Reporters are publicly funded through an officially accredited scheme, with guarantees about balance and accuracy, and this officer is clearly in need of some training.

“Glasgow City Council should make a full apology and promise never again to exclude the Press from open meetings.”