Further to my previous post, here’s the release I’ve put out on the whole matter. Due to the procedures, I’ve not been able to discuss this publicly in detail since the complaint was filed in February 2009. Feels good to talk about it now!
For immediate release: 09 July 2010
From the Green Group of Councillors, Brighton & Hove City Council
TORY COUNCILLORS TRY TO BLOCK GREEN FROM PUTTING COUNCIL MEETINGS ON YOUTUBE
Open government in Brighton & Hove was dealt a blow today when Conservative councillors attempted to stop Green Cllr Jason Kitcat from putting clips of a council meeting on YouTube.
Cllr Kitcat was subject to a standards panel hearing over his use of YouTube, after a complaint was made by Conservative Cllr Ted Kemble (a Cabinet member at the time of his complaint) supported by Council Leader Cllr Mary Mears and Deputy Leader Cllr Brian Oxley.
The complaint centred on Conservative members’ unhappiness with how Cllr Kitcat had put clips of council meetings on YouTube. These clips are already published for all to see online, but in a less easy-to-access format through the Council’s website.
“Many residents don’t want to sit through entire three or four hour meetings nor watch the whole thing online; they want to jump to the bits they’re interested in. When I found I couldn’t reliably link to sections of the webcasts, I put them on YouTube for ease of access by residents,” commented Cllr Kitcat.
“Most of these clips featured my questions on behalf of residents about communal bins. This seems to have caused Conservatives to try blocking my actions through a politically-motivated Code of Conduct complaint.”
“Rather than celebrating and encouraging openness, transparency and greater resident interest in the workings of our council, the Conservatives seem to prefer that the webcasts of council meetings stay restricted to the less than user-friendly council site.
“Putting clips of these webcasts on sites like YouTube makes them much more accessible and easy to use. As a councillor I am committed to being as open and accessible to my constituents as possible, hence my use of a blog, Twitter and YouTube.”
Despite one member admitting to not having even viewed the videos before attending the hearing, the panel decided that Cllr Kitcat had failed to treat Cllr Geoffrey Theobald with respect and had used the council’s resources improperly for political purposes.
The panel decided that Cllr Kitcat should be censured for his actions and be suspended for up to six months if he does not write an apology to Cllr Theobald and submit to re-training on the roles and responsibilities of being a councillor.
“The panel completely failed to understand the arguments I made, that putting a video on YouTube does not deprive the council of any resources whilst also making its working more open,” says Cllr Kitcat. “Furthermore, the investigating officer and Cllr Theobald felt there was no breach of the code with regard to respect. Additionally the officer report accepted that there had been no material loss to the council through my actions. Yet the Conservative complainant and the panel chose to pursue this complaint when clearly my actions benefited the people of this city at no detriment to the council.”
“I shall be fighting this case at an appeal Tribunal, it has been a complete waste of council officer time and money investigating this matter and I refute the panel’s findings,” concluded Cllr Kitcat. “With Conservative-led changes to the council constitution including cutting down speaking times, the number of questions councillors can ask and limiting the number of motions at council meetings – this complaint is a another step in the Tory attempts to close down democratic debate in our city.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
* Cllr Jason Kitcat can be contacted for comment on 07956 886 508
* At Cllr Kitcat’s request the papers and (once ready) the minutes from the panel hearing are available to the public online at http://bit.ly/bqUmdS
* Cllr Kitcat’s YouTube channel can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/user/jpkitcat
* Cllr Kitcat’s statement to the panel will shortly be available on his blog at http://www.jasonkitcat.com