Town council underlines commitment to transparency

The meeting was held at Berwick town hall.

The meeting was held at Berwick town hall.

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A Berwick Town Council committee refused to discuss an application for financial assistance from Berwick Rotary Club, after members said they were not prepared to conduct such business behind closed doors.

Berwick Rotary Club asked the environment and regeneration committee to consider its application for financial assistance in private by excluding the press and public.

However, town councillors unanimously voted not to exclude the public. As a result, they could only discuss the application without referring to any figures – which they were also not prepared to do.

Posting on the Berwick Advertiser Facebook page, Councillor Alan Turnbull explained: “Councillors voted unanimously that they did not want to discuss the matter in private. Furthermore, it was stressed that the privacy issue was a request by the applicant due to the inclusion of their financial information, not something that the Town Council had done.”

Councillors said the door was still open to the club, should the charity wish to resubmit its application. But they made it clear that an application for public money would only be considered in public.

The deputy mayor, Councillor Georgina Hill, has been campaigning for greater openness and transparency at Berwick Town Council.

Under the Local Government Act, meetings must be open to the public unless dealing with confidential or exempt information. But no explanation was given on the meeting agenda for the motion to exclude the press and public.

Asked before the meeting why a motion was being put forward to discuss the application in private, a spokesperson for Berwick Town Council replied: ”We have no comment to make.”

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