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Daily brands council ‘absolute disgrace’ as reporters barred from meeting

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.

County Hall Notts

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.

4 comments

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  • September 11, 2018 at 9:18 am
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    And revealed here then is the grey area for LDRS ( BBC Local Democracy Reporters ) – ‘The Post had attempted to send a reporter to cover the meeting’ – it was a Local Democracy Reporter, working for all titles in the region that have been accepted to receive LDRS copy – not a Post reporter, a BBC funded reporter that happens to be based in the local newsdesk offices – and over the past few years, The Post would never have been there anyway if it weren’t for the BBC LDRS initiative, whatever you think of it – and why then, wasn’t The Post’s story here and editor’s opinion piece issued as a BBC LDRS story for all titles to pick up in their region? Because The Post then took the follow-up article for themselves…a rare foray into real news no less

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  • September 11, 2018 at 3:29 pm
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    This is just another example of how the “power of the Press” – at least regionally – is now empty of meaning.
    Of course the councillors “should feel ashamed of themselves” etc, etc, but it reveals how little respect they have for the local Press which has only itself to blame.
    Ever since it abandoned its primary role to hold those in power to account in favour of undemanding, cheap and tawdry content, the regional press has forfeited its right to that power.

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  • September 11, 2018 at 9:58 pm
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    Absolute disgrace – the attitude of the council and councillors. If you go into public office you should take the rough with the smooth. Those same councillors will probably try to cosy up to local reporters for a favourable comment on how they managed to “save” a resident’s drain system. They want it both ways.

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  • September 12, 2018 at 4:36 pm
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    The article is complete nonsense. Internal meetings take place at Councils all the time. No Council, business, news outlet, club or any organisation would be able to function without them. This is a working group to keep politicians of all parties updated on the progress of the work, nothing more. It has no decision making powers. Any decisions will be taken in public

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