New Media and Brighton and Hove City Councillors: Welcome to the 21st Century

Brighton and Hove City Council have finally arrived into the age of new media. Ignoring the debate about the new head of media relations, councillors are now allowed to tweet and send emails from the Council chamber as a way of encouraging greater interaction between politicians and the public.

(Incidently, my recent post on the proposed media relations post was criticised by Labour councillor Craig Turton who was quite right when he said “Frankly, BPB this is a lazy posting not worthy of your usual insight.”)

Central Services cabinet member Jason Kitcat has said that this innovation will bring the Council into the 21st century. He said: “Despite the current guidelines, there are members from all parties who are catching up on emails in the Chamber. At the moment live feedback is limited to the small number of people in the public gallery.”

Conservative councillor Mary Mears has long opposed the change. She was quoted by the Argus as saying: “I still do not support it. I believe we are there to represent the city and should be concentrating on what is going on rather than political backstabbing while the meeting is going on.”

Labour and Co-op councillor, active Twitter-user Warren Morgan responded by saying: “Councillors should be focused on the debate but most are quite capable of listening and at the same time tweeting or researching the issue under discussion via the web on their mobile.”

Warren’s statement begs the question: “If most councillors are capable of multi-tasking, who are those who are not capable …?”

So we can all expect more interaction from our politicians which is something I welcome. I personally may not need to attend future council meetings … !

Jason Kitcat should be applauded for his actions not suspended from office by a non-elected panel

The decision on the “standards committee” of Brighton and Hove City Council to suspend Councillor Jason Kitcat is shameful.  The panel found that Cllr Kitcat’s use of a video from a Council meeting was “political” and improper, particularly in regard to one “highly edited” clip of an exchange between Councillor  Geoffrey Theobald and the then mayor, Councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn.

I for one am disgusted that a non-elected panel can suspend a councillor who has been democratically elected.  There is such limited media coverage of the debates of councillors on the City Council that any democrat would welcome wider coverage, no matter how “political” it is.  If Cllr Kitcat has ‘spun’ the item, then confront him politically.  Don’t hide behind an undemocratic panel.  This is politics, councillors are all adults. 

If Cllr Kitcat has done wrong, the way to deal with him is next May in the Council elections. I suspect that Cllr Kitcat will be re-elected with a massive majority in Regency Ward.  He is one of the finest and most hard-working councillors in Brighton and Hove.  His reputation is enhanced by his opponents actions.

I imagine Geoffrey Theobald, who can mix it with the best of them, must be terribly embarrassed that his colleague, Councillor Ted Kemble, made the original complaint.  Geoffrey doesn’t need the protection of this undemocratic panel to hide his policies.

What amazes me is that the Council is about to deliberate about what cuts they are to make, cuts on an unprecedented level.  The Coalition Government wants public input.  How can we participate if we don’t have information and the widest diversity of views.

Jason Kitcat should be applauded for what he has done.  He shouldn’t apologise.  He should be encouraged to carry on tweeting from Council meetings and posting videos, views and information on whatever media is available.

The person who can resolve this is Geoffrey Theobald who, I know, is sufficiently experienced in politics not to allow himself to be diminished by the complaint of Cllr Kemble and the ruling of the panel.  He should say that an apology is not wanted nor called for.