ATTENDEES were evicted from a council meeting after an internet blogger refused to stop filming proceedings.
Around 100 people who had turned up for Middlesbrough Council’s annual general meeting at the town hall last night (Wednesday) were told to leave the building after the meeting was suspended by Councillor Bob Kerr at 7.10pm.
Cllr Kerr had only been in his post as chairman for five minutes before the fracas broke out in the historic chamber.
After repeatedly asking John King, who runs the Better Middlesbrough website, to stop filming from the public seating area, he suspended the meeting before the arrival of three police officers.
Cllr Kerr then ordered all the assembled councillors, staff, public and the media outside for 10 minutes until eventually everyone, except Mr King and another man, returned to their seats and the disrupted meeting resumed at 7.40pm.
Writing on his blog today, Mr King said he soon hoped to release a video showing the whole episode.
“It seemed an extreme act by new Chair Councillor Bob Kerr to pursue in order to uphold the flawed constitution of Middlesbrough Council which blatantly contradicts the spirit of legislation passed by Government to allow public meetings of the council.
He added: “It is now time for all Middlesbrough Council meetings to be broadcast live, warts and all via the internet. Any refusal by our tax-funded council must be met with one simple question, “What are they hiding?”
Streamlining the council’s senior management structure to create three executive directors and nine assistant directors was discussed on the reduced agenda when the meeting finally started.
A spokesman from Middlesbrough Council said its meetings were open to all members of the public who are welcome to take notes or use mobile devices to text, Tweet or blog proceedings.
However, the council’s constitution states that “no video, voice call, recordings or photographs to be made or taken without the agreement of the chairman”.
The spokesman said: "“The constitution is a live document, which from time to time requires adjustment to reflect how the council operates.
“However this is done in a democratic way through the council’s Constitution Committee, through which any proposals would have to be put forward.”
Councillor Kerr said: “As chair of the council my first priority is to protect the constitution which guarantees the democratic and efficient running of the council’s business. This is so that the process is fair to everybody.”