Council chiefs agree to be more open with public
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.