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Councils slammed as ‘appalling’ for barring public from secret meetings

PUBLISHED: 17:09 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:09 07 January 2020

Broadland District Council leader Shaun Vincent and South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller. Picture: Broadland District Council

Broadland District Council leader Shaun Vincent and South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller. Picture: Broadland District Council

Broadland District Council

Plans to hold a series of council meetings behind closed doors - which will see the public barred from discussions about two local authorities working jointly - have been blasted as “appalling”.

Steve Riley, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Broadland Council. Photo: SubmittedSteve Riley, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Broadland Council. Photo: Submitted

Broadland and South Norfolk Councils are set to hold informal joint cabinet meetings, which will see senior councillors from both authorities discuss a "strategic approach" to collaboration.

But - in a move an opposition councillor has slammed as "appalling" - the secret meetings will not be open to the public.

Councillors who do not sit on the cabinet of either authority will only be permitted to attend at the discretion of the chairman.

Steve Riley, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Broadland Council, said the plans would "not help with transparency".

He added: "The public should be able to see what's going on."

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"If that's the situation at a normal cabinet, why is that any different with a joint cabinet?"

Mr Riley, who is chairman of Broadland's scrutiny committee, added: "Whatever they call it they're meeting as a joint cabinet.

"They come back to cabinet in Broadland and then progress it.

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"It's really fundamental in terms of democratic accountability for the authority - and also that councillors by right should be allowed to attend.

"The joint cabinet are meeting for a reason. They're putting forward proposals at their cabinet meetings that have been discussed without the press or public or councillors having the right to attend - it's appalling."

A spokesman for the two councils said the joint cabinet was not a decision-making body, and all councillors were free to attend.

Shaun Vincent, leader of Broadland Council, said: "The informal meetings are to try and get the thinking on the same page.

"While they're not open to the general public, they're open to anyone who's a member of South Norfolk or Broadland."

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"I don't understand why he would say that's undemocratic."

Mr Vincent said any decisions would have to be voted on at the council's individual cabinets, and added: "At that point everything will then become public."

And he said the meetings were in private to "protect everyone".

He said: "There could be things talked about that are never going to get off the first stage. There's a danger if you open them up you could get a whole list running that's never going to happen.

"Does it need to be open really?"

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