Private panels at Broadland agree to go public
- Credit: Submitted
A Norfolk council has made a U-turn over its decision to hold advisory panels in private.
Broadland District Council was criticised over the introduction of meetings covering the environment, economy, housing, wellbeing and member development behind closed doors.
The authority insists they are 'purely working groups and are not decision-making committees' but fears surfaced there would not be enough scrutiny on key issues.
Yet now, six weeks after the full council voted in favour of the change, 36 councillors on the five panels are looking to make all the meetings public.
A spokesman said: 'The first meetings of Broadland District Council's advisory panels are currently being held. As part of those meetings, panel members are deciding if future meetings of their groups should be open to the public.'
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Already, the place-shaping committee, member development panel, economic success and wellbeing panel have voted in favour of the change to go public, and the remaining one on the environment is expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.
Council leader Andrew Proctor, who had the final say on who sits on what panel, previously defended the new system, insisting it would not stifle public debate, but rather develop policy.
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Part of the plan was to scrap the current place-shaping committee which discusses housing and is held in public, and replace it with a private panel of the same name.
Broadland councillor Dan Roper said he fully supported the idea of advisory panels, but said it was essential they were held in the open.
'It's good to get more councillors involved, as long as they are conducted in the right way, and that's in public,' he said.
Panels are bi-monthly and the minutes of the meetings held in private will be made public.
The Broadland spokesman said if members of the public want to see minutes before they are published on the website, they should contact the democratic services department.
Do you have a story about the Broadland area? Contact Rosa McMahon on 01603 772453.