Press release: Secret meetings

A ROW has broken out between Conwy County Council and an Assembly Member after the authority was accused of making ‘major’ decisions ‘well away from the public eye’.

Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders, who has obtained figures on council meetings via Freedom of Information requests, attacked cabinet members claiming press and public were excluded from 76 per cent of meetings over the last year.

The former Conwy County councillor, who said she was “deeply concetrned”, accused the authority of presiding over a series of “financial disasters” and “massive overspend”.

The council responded by questioning her motives for the complaints and insisting “the vast majority” of discussions are held in public.

Ms Finch-Saunders said: “Conwy’s Cabinet remains the second highest in Wales to keep voting out the press and public and have done so, at some part, in 12 out of 17 Cabinet Meetings in the past 12 months.

“Major decisions and more are taken well away from the public eye, by a minority of executive members much too often when compared with other local authorities across Wales.

“There have been some serious failings on the part of the authority in recent months and residents have a right to know of such.”

Her comments echo those of David Jones MP who earlier this month criticised the authority for maintaining a “pall of secrecy” over Colwyn Bay’s Porth Eirias.

Ms Finch-Saunders added: “It is time that all elected Cabinet Members in Conwy and in particular the Leader Cllr Dilwyn Roberts realised they are there to represent the best interests of the tax payer.”

Cllr Dilwyn Roberts, said: “The figures issued by the AM give the impression that if any part of a Conwy meeting is closed to the press and public, that the whole of the meeting is treated in the same way – this is simply not true.

“As the AM knows, the vast majority of items are discussed in public and meetings are open for the public.

“The Assembly Member might find better things to occupy her time, rather than persistently seeking to micro-manage local government.”

The Auditor General for Wales Huw Vaughan Thomas, said in May there is no evidence to suggest Conwy excludes the public more than is usual.

A council spokesperson said: “All organisations have the ability to discuss certain issues in private. Each issue is considered on merit and cannot be restricted without sound reason, for example if it contains information about disciplinary matters, contracts or perhaps details of the Council’s negotiating position for property transactions.”