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What’s not on agenda?
RICHARD BRIDGE calls for web cameras in York council meetings and asks what rules apply in relation to public observance of meetings (Letters, February 22).
The answer is that the rules are ever changing. Up until the 1980s planning applications in York were determined behind closed doors with only a press reporter allowed to witness proceedings. Anyone else attempting to sit in was forcibly removed. It seems ridiculous now, but it was claimed that the information was “confidential” and that elected members had to be “free to speak” without fear of reprisal. Elected members and paid officers blamed each other for maintaining these secret sittings.
However, following a campaign by a young architect of this parish, backed by the then Yorkshire Evening Press, the committee meeting doors were finally open to the public. Soon afterwards, legislation was passed setting out minimum standards for access to information and making secret meetings illegal.
The problem we now have is not whether or not cameras or microphones are present in meetings but what is on the agenda; or to be more precise, not on the agenda. Too many important decisions are taken outside committee rooms, in private, with no scrutiny at all. Forget the webcams. It is the manipulation of events to avoid decisions in public that needs to be addressed.
Matthew Laverack, Older architect of this parish, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York.