Transparency move on confidential business discussed at Mid Ulster council meetings

Magherafelt Council
Magherafelt Council

In a bid to increase transparency on items discussed in private at Mid Ulster District Council’s committees and public meetings, one committee has voted to have these items listed on the agenda.

This means that although reporters and the public will still not be allowed to hear the debate, outcomes and points around such matters of business - they will be able to see what issues have been moved into confidential business.

In February, a report on the quality of leisure services throughout Mid Ulster District was delivered to council behind closed doors, meaning the public could not be made aware of its contents.

However, MLA Linda Dillon later said it outlined proposals for improvements to the recreational facilities at Gortgonis, in Coalisland.

Councillors at last Thursday night’s Policy and resources Committee were told that items should only be discussed in private if they came under seven exempt information categories from schedule six of the 2014 Local Government Act.

“It’s about increasing transparency,” Chief Executive Anthony Tohill said at the meeting.

“We will list items in confidential business so people can see what we are talking about.”

In reply, deputy chair of the committee Councillor Derek McKinney, said if reports such as that on leisure facilities were discussed in public - and then reported on in local press - they could lead to “expectations” the council may not be able to fulfil.

Mr Tohill replied: “That’s always going to the case.”

But added: “It wouldn’t be one of the clauses under confidential business.

“We can only put it into confidential business if it should be there.”

Once an item is placed in confidential business it can only be brought out if it’s resolved to do so.