Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Newcastle council workshops go behind closed doors

From The Herald...

Newcastle council workshops go behind closed doors
16 Mar, 2010 03:00 AM
FROM museum and art gallery redevelopments, to reviewing skate parks and hosting rock concerts in city parks.

These are just some of the topics discussed behind closed doors in Newcastle City Council workshops.

Critics of the civic sessions that exclude the public and media say most of the subjects canvassed are in the public interest and should be discussed in open sessions.

But others say the workshops are an informal way of sharing information, and are not for decision-making.

The Herald has obtained a list with details of most of the workshops that have been held during the incumbent council's term. It covers October to December 2008 and February to December 2009.

Only one of the 48 topics discussed in 28 behind closed doors meetings is marked confidential.

This workshop related to an organisational review.

The remaining forums covered a wide range of topics, including matters that attracted much public debate, such as last year's Fat As Butter concert and a review of city skate parks.

Cr Michael Osborne has been campaigning to let the public and media into workshops.

He said the list showed that, apart from the confidential organisational review, all other sessions should be open.

"Certainly the public interest argument, a lot of these topics have high public interest," Cr Osborne said.

The council's city engagement director Martin Coates said the sessions were a forum for sharing information only.

"There's no decisions made at workshops," he said.

"We're doing nothing that's outside [Division of Local Government] guidelines."

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