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Rules on council decision-making are spelled out

Guidance to help editors decide what can be made public – and what should not – under the Local Government Act has been put together by the Society of Editors.

The briefing document, which looks at the issues from the point of view of the press, has been written by the Society’s legal adviser Catherine Courtney.

It explains when councils must make decisions in public and particularly details the rules on “key decisions” concerning council spending.

The Government’s new guidelines have already been issued to councils – and there is still some leeway in how they can be interpreted.

There may still be some delay in councils acting on the guidelines because Parliament has to ratify them. A debate has been scheduled for today.

SoE director Bob Satchwell said: “The Local Government Act will have a huge effect on how councils are reported.

“The society worked hard and long to try to ensure there would be no new blockages in the flow of information to the media and the public.

“We want to hear from editors about how the Act and the regulations surrounding it are applied.

“We were assured during the passage of the legislation that nothing should interfere with editors’ ability to report councils.

“Government ministers said they wanted local government to ‘engage’ with the public and we explained that they must make sure councils remained open to the media and the public.

“Clear guidelines have been set out but councils may interpret them differently.”

The full briefing is available through the Society of Editors website by clicking here.

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