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Council U-turns on secret meetings after editor slams bid to ‘dodge scrutiny’

James CracknellA council has U-turned on plans to hold meetings in secret after being accused of trying to “dodge scrutiny” by an editor.

Enfield Council was criticised by Enfield Dispatch editor James Cracknell after announcing many meetings scheduled for January would be held “informally”.

The Labour-run authority revealed last week the meetings would take place virtually using MS Teams but “will not be broadcast”, prompting condemnation from opposition councillors.

James, pictured, added on Twitter it was “really hard to look at this decision as anything other than an attempt by Enfield Council to dodge scrutiny”.

However, the authority has now changed its mind, telling Simon Allin, local democracy reporter for Barnet, Enfield and Haringey, it “will stream any meeting if there is a request to do so”.

A spokesperson for the authority told the Dispatch: “Meetings have been moved from a formal, in-person basis to an online informal (because that is all the law allows us to do) format.

“These informal meetings will continue to be supported by officers, with the normal elected members invited to attend. There will be an agenda and papers, and notes will still be taken.

“Chairs of committees have been asked if they need the meeting to go ahead online or if they prefer to reschedule for a later date and have the meeting in person. Each chair will consult with members of their committee in making their decision.

“We will stream any meeting if there is a request to do so, in line with arrangements we have made in the past.”

Speaking to HTFP, James said: “The council appeared initially to try to get away with holding these meetings without any public or press access, but eventually agreed to stream them online.

“Nonetheless, the council has been accused of using Covid-19 as a cover to limit scrutiny of its decision-making processes, damaging local democracy.”