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Tory council's "open and transparent" claim slammed as "public information panel" won't be held in public

March 10, 2013 9:20 PM

Brentwood Tories' claim to be "an open and transparent council" have taken another body blow after they refused to hold the "Public Information Panel" in public and said that the meeting must take place behind closed doors.

The panel, which has been a properly constituted committee of the council for over six years has only met once, in private, and with only two of its three members present.

The lack of transparency over the items discussed at the meeting means that the communications function of the council is not scrutinised in public, leading opposition councillors to conclude that the communication is there to spin the Tory message rather than promote the council itself.

Recent incidences of a bias towards the Conservative administration include:

Major council publications are also supposed to be seen by the PIP but, in the latest clanger from the Conservatives, an email was received by opposition councillors saying that the group "was not currently running" - despite it being agreed at three council meetings this year.

Karen Chilvers

Cllr Karen Chilvers wants the meetings held in public

Cllr Karen Chilvers, Lib Dem and a third of the committee and a chartered marketer, said:

"Council communication should be non-political but it is clear that this is a tax-payer funded Tory mouth piece. It is preposterous that a "public information" panel is so determinedly held behind closed doors when it should be discussed in public.

"It makes you wonder what the administration have to hide - perhaps they are not keen on being challenged on all the Leader focused communications or indeed be asked why an officer told me that he had to "run it past the leader" before he was allowed to publicise a public event?"

"I have been on the PIP since 2007 and, at least in the previous leader's day he would run the Vision magazine past me for input."