Stradbroke Parish Council and the judgement of Solomon #RightToReport

Stradbroke Parish Council meeting on 11th August 2014
One of my favourite Biblical stories is the judgement of Solomon. If you have forgotten the story I have attached it below or you can find it at 1 Kings 3:16-27 

A Wise Ruling 1 Kings 3:16-27 NIV

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”

22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”

But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”

24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

Something similar happened last night at a packed Stradbroke Parish Council meeting where around 50 members of the public turned up. Several came with smartphones and other cameras to exercise the new "right to report" signed into law by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles last week.

The dispute before the council was thankfully not over a baby but the village magazine, The Stradbroke Monthly. The council had become deeply divided on the question of who "owns" the magazine. Is it the council or the editors of the magazine?

Local author and blogger
 Richard Pierce-Saunderson with a camera
Thankfully sense prevailed at the end of the day with a majority deciding that the current arrangements that have seen the magazine published "under the auspices" of the council should continue and that arguments about ownership were likely to end up destroying the magazine much like the proposed action by King Solomon.

It is interesting to speculate about the effect that the right to report had on the meeting last night but it did appear to make people think more carefully about how decisions would play outside the council chamber. This can only be a good thing and increase the accountability of the council.

I suspect future meetings might attract slightly less interest but I also think a camera or at least a microphone or two is likely to be a permanent feature of all council meetings now. Their presence should be a reminder to all of us that we are accountable as councillors to the public holding the cameras and watching the footage and not to the other councillors.

UPDATE: There is now a video on You Tube of the full debate:

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