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Are councils becoming more open – or more secretive?

Regional journalists are being asked to give their views on whether they think a town hall revolution has led to councils becoming more secretive – or more open.

An online survey is being held with the aim of finding out whether or not the introduction of cabinet-style Government in councils up and down the country has brought more openness.

It had been hoped that it would boost local democracy, but there has been debate over whether it has made council business more transparent or sealed it firmly behind closed doors.

The survey is being conducted by Grant Riches Communications, on behalf of LG Communications, the organisation which represents council press officers, with help from the Society of Editors.

And as well as PR officers, editors and reporters are being urged to take part.

There has been widespread anecdotal evidence from many local newspaper editors and reporters that cabinet Government has failed to deliver the kind of openness that ministers claimed it would.

Many also suspect that councils are now finding it easier to manage the release of information about sensitive or controversial issues.

Bob Satchwell, director of the Society of Editors, said the survey offered editors and reporters the chance to give constructive feedback on the impact of the reforms.

He said: “Nothing has a greater effect on the lives of readers, listeners and viewers than local Government yet it can be a turn-off for both the media and the public.

“We all know there are times when it is difficult to get councils to tell us what is going on. We are all too well aware that many suspect cabinet Government has not delivered the kind of improved openness and accountability we campaigned for and that would make the public pay better attention.

“This survey will put that perception to the test.”

Journalists have until March 14 to take part in the survey and its findings will be released and discussed at the LG Communications Annual Conference in Nottingham in April.

The survey, which should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, can be found here.

Do you have a story about the regional press? Ring 0116 227 3122/3121, or
e-mail pastill@nep.co.uk