Webcast of council meeting held back in claims of censorship
THE council has sparked a fierce censorship row by holding back the webcast of its last full meeting.
Conservative group leader Cllr Vivien Pengelly said she had been told yesterday that it would not be available on Plymouth City Council's website until "certain parts" have been removed.
The meeting on Monday was recorded and broadcast live. Under normal practice it should have been available online immediately afterwards.
But it was still not on the council's website yesterday.
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Cllr Pengelly said she discovered it was missing when she tried to access it to check what had been said on Monday.
"I tried to look at it online and was told that I cannot see it until certain parts of it have been removed.
"I don't think that's right.
"I am shocked that the webcast is being doctored. It was a public meeting."
She said the Labour-led council had made a big play about being open and transparent but was not living up to its promises.
"If any of our members perform badly in the council chamber, can they say they don't want it to go out? No they cannot," she said.
Tim Howes, assistant director for democracy and governance, said: "It has been necessary to remove a section of the webcast of full council due to potentially defamatory remarks made by some of the councillors present about an individual council officer.
"If the council were to publish such remarks, we could be open to legal challenge, which could ultimately cost the local taxpayers money, at a time when we can ill afford it.
"This was a tricky situation but as we have no statutory duty to webcast public meetings and the issue at the centre of the discussion concerned decision-making relating to a single planning application and not a wide-reaching public matter, we judged the perceived risks to the council out-weighed our commitment to publish the comments.
"It is also right that we protect our staff from unsubstantiated allegations as part of our duty of care as an employer.
"We expect that removing sections of webcasts will be very rare and would only ever be carried out if it were judged there was a risk of legal challenge should particular content be published."