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Council makes U-turn after reporter exposes secret meeting plan

Eddei BisknellA council has U-turned on plans to hold a meeting in secret 24 hours after they were made public by a local democracy reporter.

Journalist Eddie Bisknell has hailed a “win for public transparency” after Derbyshire Dales District Council went back on its original decision to meet behind closed doors.

Eddie is based at Reach plc daily the Derby Telegraph, but covered the decision for JPIMedia weekly the Matlock Mercury, which has access to copy he produces under the BBC-funded scheme.

The meeting will be held this Wednesday to discuss plans for a new cinema, shops, cafe and leisure facility, but Eddie reported on Thursday the authority was set to discuss the proposals in secret.

He subsequently challenged the decision, with the council changing its mind on Friday and announcing the meeting will be broadcast on its YouTube channel.

However, the authority says “commercially sensitive” information will be included in an exempt appendix.

Eddie, pictured, told HTFP: “This has to be seen as a win for public transparency and scrutiny and I’m glad to see the change of heart.

“However, it is still up to the council what it means by commercial sensitivity, with some information still being kept away from the public when it is taxpayer money that is being spent by representatives they elected to be in the room where it happens.”

A council spokesperson said: “We’ve reconsidered a legal recommendation that this meeting should be held in camera.

“This is about enabling transparent decision making while protecting the financial interests of other parties affected by the proposed decision that the council is being asked to take.”