Yesterday, communities secretary Eric Pickles generated a fair amount of Press with his new guidelines around public access to the decision-making process at local councils.
A lot of it will be very familiar to journalists who cover councils: How council meetings work, what access you can expect and what you can request council officers to provide.
The big headline was that Mr Pickles was reminding councils that they should allow people to cover council meetings live and film them too.
Like many of Mr Pickles’ previous pushes around transparency within Town Halls – such as demanding the end of council newspapers and insisting all councils publish spending data over £500 – there doesn’t appear to be a law behind the new demands around filming, just an expectation that local politicians and council bosses will do what the minister tells them.
As an approach to working with local government, it’s generally been effective for Mr Pickles. Only Nottingham City Council refuses to publish council spending data (as far as I can tell), arguing it costs too much money to justify – and ironically wasting a lot of time and money arguing with government about the fact too.
As for council newspapers, many have folded, or reduced in frequency. A hardcore few remain, and Mr Pickles now plans to ensure the remaining ones are closed down by backing up the publicity code of practice with legislation.
So there, hopefully, is proof that what Mr Pickles wants, Mr Pickles gets.