Coun­cil chiefs agree to be more open with pub­lic

The Chronicle - - News -

A COUN­CIL has pledged to im­prove its trans­parency by rev­ers­ing a de­ci­sion not to dis­close in­for­ma­tion to the press and pub­lic.

North Ty­ne­side Coun­cil bosses has agreed to pub­lish all rel­e­vant doc­u­ments ahead of its li­cens­ing com­mit­tee hear­ings af­ter al­most eight years of keep­ing the in­for­ma­tion se­cret, fol­low­ing a re­quest from the Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­port­ing Ser­vice ear­lier this year.

Con­cerns were raised by one coun­cil­lor, how­ever, that pub­lish­ing the in­for­ma­tion – which can in­clude ob­jec­tions to bar or take­away ap­pli­ca­tions from neigh­bours, the po­liceor other bodies – could be un­fair as me­dia re­ports prior to a hear­ing might sway the opin­ions of the com­mit­tee.

Coun­cil of­fi­cers said the change was be­ing made “in the sup­port of trans­parency and lo­cal democ­racy”and brings the coun­cil in line with most other lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. How­ever, Wendy Lott, former chair of the au­thor­ity’s li­cens­ing com­mit­tee, ex­pressed fears over the press “de­mand­ing” in­for­ma­tion be made pub­lic.

She told fel­low com­mit­tee mem­bers: “If you are too trans­par­ent that could maybe sway some­one’s de­ci­sion on how they vote in li­cens­ing in terms of al­low­ing the li­cence to go ahead de­pend­ing on how the press have re­ported on it.

“We all know the press can ex­ag­ger­ate cer­tain things.”

When a li­cens­ing ap­pli­ca­tion is made to the coun­cil – to open a bar, res­tau­rant, or take­away, for ex­am­ple – it will be re­ferred to a li­cens­ing com­mit­tee hear­ing for a vote if rep­re­sen­ta­tions are made against it. Since Oc­to­ber 2010, North Ty­ne­side Coun­cil has not dis­closed those rep­re­sen­ta­tions to the press or pub­lic – only the date, time and venue of a hear­ing.

The new stance was for­mally ap­proved by a unan­i­mous vote of the coun­cil’s li­cens­ing com­mit­tee on Thurs­day evening.

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