TODAY, The Press reveals for the first time a series of secret internal reports from City of York Council. Some identify worrying issues to do with internal security risks and the failings in adult social care, already a cause for concern in York. Some identify mundane shortcomings. Others still show that many council departments are performing well, as they should.
None of these reports was made public voluntarily by the council. They are revealed today and published in full on our website only thanks to The Press using the Freedom of Information Act to force their release. It is regrettable that we had to go to such lengths to make matters of clear public interest widely accessible. But it is pleasing that the council has now vowed to end such secrecy.
From now on, they say, internal audit reports such as these will routinely be made available to the public at the same time as the issues they raise are discussed by councillors.
This is a pleasing step in the right direction. The council has faced criticism in recent months from its own auditors and national watchdogs for the manner in which decisions are made and for not always being as accountable as they could be.
It is also a timely reminder of the value of the Freedom of Information Act. There have been calls nationally in recent years for this legislation to be watered down or scaled back, but moments like this show why it remains vital for holding our politicians to account and for tackling secrecy head on.
We trust the problems identified in the council audits will now be tackled promptly – and in an open and accountable manner.