A regional daily has branded councillors “an absolute disgrace” after it was barred from reporting on a meeting about the planned creation of a so-called ‘super council’.
The Nottingham Post has hit out at Nottinghamshire County Council’s decision to hold the meeting in secret on the grounds that confidential information “privy only to elected representatives” would be discussed.
The Post had attempted to send a reporter to cover the meeting, but was told beforehand it would not be open to the press and public.
The meeting at County Hall, pictured, in West Bridgford, was held by a working group featuring leaders of all political parties represented on the county council.
Under the plans, all district and borough councils in Nottinghamshire would be dissolved and a brand new unitary authority, or ‘super council’, formed.
In an editorial published on Friday about the previous day’s meeting, the Post said the councillors behind the decision to bar its journalists “should feel ashamed of themselves”.
It said: “This is the most controversial and potentially far-reaching debate about the shape of local government in Nottinghamshire for decades. The outcome could affect everyone living in the county, including those of us entitled to vote for councillors to represent us.
“Let us linger on that word because it is at the heart of the outrage we felt on hearing that yesterday’s little cabal had decided the public they represent should not hear what they were discussing. The Post asked if it could attend, to tell the public what was discussed, but was told ‘the meeting is not open to the public, as it will discuss confidential information privy only to elected representatives.'”
“Like what, for heaven’s sake? This was not one of those cases where secrecy might be justified on the grounds that a company’s finances were being discussed, for instance, in the course of bidding for contract. Nor were the private details of a member of the public being aired.
“It was simply a debate by the people’s representatives about a matter of huge importance to the people. Holding it behind closed doors was an absolute disgrace.”
Post editor Mike Sassi told HTFP: “It’s outrageous that an elected council is proposing to make such an important decision – one that potentially affects the lives of so many local people – behind closed doors.
“What do they have to hide? They should have the courage to front-up and defend their proposals.
“Most voters recognise and respect that local government is having to make some extremely tough decisions. What we can’t accept is those decisions being made in secret.”
A provisional timetable shows that a final vote on the scheme could be held in May next year, after a public consultation. Nottinghamshire County Council has declined to comment.