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Council refuses to reverse journalist ban amid fresh controversy

Pressure is mounting on a council to reverse its decision to bar journalists from meetings so those present can “speak openly and frankly”.

HTFP recently reported how Eastern Daily Press had criticised Norfolk County Council’s move to bar press and public from Transport for Norwich steering group meetings after controversy over the running of the body.

Now, calls for a U-turn on the council’s policy have increased after it emerged the authority has not secured all the land needed for major work at Heartsease roundabout, in Norwich.

The EDP has reported that the council continues to claim making the discussions private “will improve decision-making” on the project.

County Hall, Norfolk

County Hall, Norfolk

In a meeting, Brian Watkins, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat opposition group, said: “You recently decided to scrap the Transport for Norwich advisory committee, turning it into little more than a meaningless talking shop.

“This is an affront to local democracy as well as being utterly disrespectful to council colleagues on other neighbouring authorities.

“With ongoing public concern about the changes now taking place at the Heartsease roundabout, will the chair now concede that this is absolutely the wrong time to take matters behind closed doors?”

Graham Plant, the Tory-led council’s cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, said in response: “The previous iteration of this body was dysfunctional, being made inquorate by members refusing to take part and depriving the cabinet member of advice to assist his timely decision-making.

“The new steering group reflects the well-functioning arrangements of Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn, which have operated successfully for many years.”