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Localism Bill's Effect on Press Access to Local Government Information

While the Communities and Local Government Secretary encourages councils to open up to online filming and blogging, the NS has written to Eric Pickles pointing out that regulations could be made under the Localism Bill which could be used to shut out the public from meetings of the executive performing local authority functions.

The NS has asked the Secretary of State to outline whether the Government intends to draw up regulations affecting press and public access to local government meetings and information under the powers conferred by the Localism Bill; whether those will be  framed to ensure the greatest possible openness, improving upon the current provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 as amended and other relevant legislation rather than reducing public access to information and meetings rights; what the timetable for such secondary legislation would be; and, most importantly of all, whether before doing so, the Government will consult the NS and other media organisations, given the importance of these rights for day-to-day coverage of council affairs and investigative reporting.

In response to proposed changes to the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003, the NS has also asked the DCLG to maintain all local public bodies’ obligations to publish notices in local newspapers on public inspection rights, as well as the current sanctions for any contravention of  those rights.

The NS will be commenting on the DCLG’s proposed code on making data generated by authorities available and accessible to the public and would welcome suggestions from local newspaper editors as to whether there are other categories of information which should be included, beyond statutory requirements and what needs to be done to ensure that the information is easily accessible, understandable and user friendly

Please contact Santha Rasaiah at the NS by 10 March at santha_rasaiah@newspapersoc.org.uk.    

The NS is the voice of Britain’s local media, the UK’s most trusted medium. It represents 1,100 newspapers, 1,700 websites and other print, digital and broadcast channels.