Monday, October 01, 2012
WHY WE DO NOT REPORT BRIGG N.A.T. MEETINGS - JUST IN CASE YOU WONDERED
A meeting of the Brigg and Wolds Neighbourhood Action Team (NAT) is coming up.
It will be on Wednesday, October 8 at Worlaby Village Hall (7pm).
Please note: These meetings are not open to the general public or the press.
We found out about it today through a circularised email, as a paid up member of the Brigg Town Business Partnership.
NAT sessions are for representatives of local councils, the police, North Lincolnshire Homes and other relevant groups (but more of that later...)
Some years ago when these NATs were first put in place by national powers-that-be, we did manage to attend a very early one in Brigg (Angel Suite Lounge). But when the question of the press and public being there was considered, the answer came back there's no automatic right of admission (bona fide press or not).
Under that fine piece of legislation The Public Bodies Admissions to Meetings Act 1960, the press were afforded the right to attend a wide range of local authority-related meetings for the first time.
The scope was further extended by the Local Government Act 1972.
Some might not see Conservative Margaret Thatcher - later to become Prime Minister and now a Baroness - as a likely campaigner for open government and press freedom.
But the then backbencher, one of Lincolnshire's most famous folk, was at the forefront of getting the 1960 Act through Parliament. And it formed the subject of her maiden speech in the House of Commons.
We should add that the solitary meeting of the Brigg NAT we did attend, in the Angel Suite, was taken up with discussing the provision of footpath between a couple of the Low Villages.
There was little of relevance to Brigg itself - on that occasion.
A trawl we've just undertaken round the internet shows that some NATs issue press releases after every meeting, while some forward their minutes to the press.
Only a few months ago, when we raised this issue again, a copy of the Brigg NAT's latest minutes was emailed to us - from which we picked up a couple of interesting issues.
However, for the gentlemen (and ladies) of the press, this "second-hand method" is clearly not the same as having the opportunity to go along and report meetings in person.
The North Lincolnshire Safer Neighbourhoods Partnership has put forward the following definition of
Neighbourhood Action Teams:
"NATs are regular meetings chaired by the local Councillor and attended by representatives from Safer Neighbourhoods, the police, NL Homes, NL Council, Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinators, Residents Association Co-ordinators, etc. This is not a public meeting, but it does discuss community issues and seeks to resolve problems. Any problems which cannot be resolved by the NAT will be referred to the Area Action Team for resolution."
There's also a useful short history of NATs:
We'll just end by making it clear that the Brigg NAT operates within the rules. However, Brigg Blog suggests that someone at national level, when these bodies were established, should have taken on board the spirit in which Margaret Thatcher's Bill was promoted.
Today, in certain circumstances, a council (or similar body) can still vote to exclude the press and public for a particular (stated) reason. But even if there's a meeting at which ALL the business is considered "exempt" from the public domain, a motion must still be put and agreed by the majority present before the press and public can be shown the door.
The press and public has a right to attend the meetings of North Lincolnshire Council, its controlling cabinet and sub-committees, and all monthly meetings of Brigg Town Council and its committees.
These meetings must are advertised in advance to let interested members of the public know they are taking place.
PS We hope the minutes of the next Brigg and Wolds NAT meeting will be issued to the press. The group clearly does some good work and you'd think the more people who know about it, the better.
DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN NOW READ MORE INTERESTING NEWS ABOUT BRIGG AND DISTRICT BY VISITING THE BRIGG PEOPLE WEBSITE?