Council u-turn on ‘secret meetings’

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Members of the press will now be allowed to attend all of Coleraine Borough Council’s committee meetings.

Back in September there was controversy when the council approved a new committee structure.

It created four new committees to meet behind closed doors. The committees were Environment, Leisure and Development, Corporate Affairs and Audit and Risk.

Before this council business was conducted through three committees which met monthly: Leisure and Environment, Policy and Development and Planning - the business from these meetings were then rattified at a full Council meeting once per month.

At last Tuesday’s Council meeting, a proposal by DUP Deputy Mayor Mark Fielding to revert back to the three committee structure did not get a seconder.

The UUP’s William McCandless them proposed that Council should continue with the four committee structure, but allow the press to attend the meetings.

The UUP man said he felt that the new committee structure was working: “I certainly feel it has been beneficial. This Council has nothing to hide, so I don’t see why we can’t continue with the new system and allow the press to attend. Anything that is discussed in these committees is just as a reccommendation, it has to come back to the full council.”

The DUP then put forward the Deputy Mayor’s proposal - to revert back to the old system, as an ammendment to the UUP proposal.

Deputy Mayor, Mark Fielding told the meeting that he was unable to attend other meetings for outside bodies as the committees met on the same night. “Tuesday night has always been a council night,” he said.

DUP Alderman James McClure told the meeting: “The old system worked well.”

On being put to a vote, the ammendment - to revert back to the old four committee system was lost by 11 votes to eight- the UUP proposal to stick to the current system and allow the press to attend was carried.