Fears that public may lose right to know

QUESTIONS are today being asked about the impact of a bid to strengthen secrecy rules in the county's corridors of power.

Neil Puffett

QUESTIONS are today being asked about the impact of a bid to strengthen secrecy rules in the county's corridors of power.

As revealed in The Evening Star last week Suffolk chiefs are bidding to strengthen confidentiality protocols.

The move could mean councillors are no longer able to decide whether high level information they feel people have a right to know about should be made public.

Julian Swainson, leader of Suffolk's Labour group, wants assurances that there will be no moves to make the public's access to information more difficult.

He also wants to know that councillors will not be prevented from disclosing relevant information to their constituents and the Suffolk County Council Tory administration will not use any changes to stifle public debate about the running of the council.

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He said: “The Labour government has given everyone a legal right to ask questions about how public bodies work, and Suffolk Tory councillors cannot ignore this legal right.

“Trying to introduce a new culture of secrecy will make council tax payers think there is something to hide.

“Whether it is inflated top salaries, plans for incinerators or privatisation of care services, Suffolk tax payers have a right to know what is happening and how much they may have to pay for the mismanagement of local services.

“Labour councillors will always press for the full facts to be available to everyone.”

Cllr Jeremy Pembroke, Leader of Suffolk County Council, said: "We are simply following guidance from the Labour government that councils should make it easy for councillors to understand what information they should or shouldn't disclose to the public.

“We want to reassure the people of Suffolk that Suffolk County Council is open and transparent.

“We are not in talks to hide information from the public.

“This administration has always been open about its business and will continue to be so.

"We have a culture of openness and an outstanding reputation for it.”

Babergh District Council formally adopted the changes in September while moves are under way to make changes at Suffolk County Council, Mid Suffolk Council and Suffolk Coastal.

Ipswich Borough Council has revealed it has no plans to make any changes in the immediate future.

Are you concerned about moves to strengthen secrecy rules? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk