Welsh democracy behind closed doors

Welsh Conservatives today revealed figures showing that some Welsh local authorities last year excluded the public from the majority of their council meetings.

 

In 2013/14 Anglesey Council excluded the public from at least one agenda item in ten of their 14 full council meetings, equating to 71%.

 

Wrexham Council last year held every single one of its cabinet meetings behind closed doors, while others like Gwynedd and Conservative-led Monmouthshire went into private session just once.

 

Janet Finch-Saunders AM, who uncovered the figures, warned that this culture of secrecy seemed endemic in some local authorities and could deny local residents the opportunity to engage in their local democracy.

 

Mrs Finch-Saunders, Shadow Minister for Local Government, said, “There are occasions when councils may be justified, due to commercially-sensitive matters, in holding certain discussions in private, but such powers should not be abused to hide decision-making from the public.

 

“These figures show that some Welsh councils are routinely taking decisions about the spending of taxpayers money and the delivery of local services behind closed doors.

 

“How can Anglesey Council defend going into private session in 71% of its meetings, when some councils like Conservative-run Monmouthshire have gone into private session just once.

 

“Under Labour, council tax has risen by 150% and residents must be able to see for themselves whether their money is being spent wisely, but this is impossible if meetings are held in secret.

 

“In an age of low voter turnout, councils should be making their proceedings more accessible through modern technology and should be taking steps towards transparency to encourage civic engagement.

 

“These figures suggest that there is a prevailing attitude of laziness in some local authorities where the power to exclude the public is used frivolously to make it more difficult to be held to account.

 

“Elected representatives must be accountable to the people, but that is impossible if Welsh local democracy is held behind closed doors.”