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Reporter barred from meeting labelled a 'training exercise'

An editor has rounded on her local authority after a reporter was turned away from a council meeting set to discuss a critical issue facing thousands of voters.

Hereford Times reporter Ian Morris was hoping to inform the public about the latest efforts to solve recent flooding problems but was told: “It’s a training session”.

The paper had been invited to the meeting of Herefordshire Council by Coun Stuart Thomas.

Editor Liz Griffin said she was “bemused” by the turn of events – and council leader Roger Phillips later described the media invitation as “unfortunate”.

The Hereford Times has been a key player in bringing the area’s floods misery to the Government’s attention and had to report on the meeting second-hand, picking up feedback from some councillors to say they would rather the press had been there.

Liz said: “Like our readers, we are concerned at the slow progress towards securing the city’s flood defences. We saw this meeting as a valuable opportunity to bring everyone up-to-date and were astonished when our reporter was turned away.”

“The event has been variously described as a briefing, a seminar and a training session. It involved all elected councillors, officers of the council and representatives of outside agencies who gave presentations on the situation. It took place in the council chamber.

“That no minutes were taken and that no decisions were made appears to be the only difference between this ‘training session’ and a full council meeting. That and the fact that it was held in private.

“The council has pledged its commitment to open government. There are mighty issues facing this county at the moment and our readers, as council tax-payers and electors, are entitled to know how decisions are made and on what they are based.”

The meeting was attended by councillors, the Hereford Campaign for Flood Defence, contractors and the Environment Agency.

Councillor Chris Chappell said: “It was the ideal opportunity for all of us to get some good publicity and show people that we are trying to solve the problem of flooding because a great part of the public think we have forgotten about the whole issue.

“I am delighted with the help we have received from the Hereford Times in highlighting the problems of my constituents and I look forward to working with the newspaper in the future.”

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