COMMENT: Holding councils to account in public is a basic right

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Attending lengthy council meetings is probably not many people’s idea of fun (except maybe some councillors).

However, that doesn’t mean that the public should not have the right to be there if they wish to be.

Even when members of the public are not at meetings, the press is often there to act as your eyes and ears and to report on what happened.

We do not ask for or expect preferential treatment, but the press should not be excluded from meetings over technicalities.

If there are legitimate reasons for hearings to be held in private – such as legal or financially sensitive information – then there are rules in place to prevent this information entering the public domain.

Rare is the reporter with any number of years under their belt to have not been turfed out of the council chamber at some point on these grounds.

It is no surprise that confidential information could come up in any large planning application.

But when there are already concerns about the application and the nature of it – as there are with the Queen’s Hotel site in Southsea – it is no surprise that people are worried.

When it involves the hot topic of affordable housing – or a lack thereof – in our crowded island city people are going to naturally want to know what is going on.

And sadly it is no surprise that campaigners are worried about the exploitation of ‘loopholes’ to allow matters regarding the £7m redevelopment to be played out behind closed doors. 

Again, these worries have proved to be entirely legitimate in the past.

So it is reassuring to hear Portsmouth City Council say the meeting will be held in the open.

Government should take place in the the open unless there are very good reasons for it not to be – it is a simple, basic tenet of democracy.