Headlines: April 20th, 2001

A consultation paper on ways of enhancing the transparency and accountability of local authority decision-making has been produced in an attempt to tackle anxiety in some quarters that modernised systems can result in secrecy and suspicion.The paper from the DETR seeks views on how certain aspects of the access to information regime for local government might be strengthened further – to ensure that all local authorities work within a spirit of greater openness.

Previous cumbersome committee systems did have the advantage of clarity about which meetings were in public and what information was available. New cabinet government has left local authorities making largely their own decisions about whether to meet in public and how much prior information to divulge.

The consultation seeks to clarify the categories of information which councils may choose to exempt from public disclosure, proposes to extend the minimum requirement to make agendas and reports available before public meetings from three clear days to five, and seeks out examples of local authorities’ best practice in setting financial thresholds which define decisions taken by executives as key – and therefore discussed at open meetings. It will also look at how guidance on indicative thresholds might best be framed.

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 30 June.

Link: www.local-regions.detr.gov.uk