Public names to be excluded from town's records despite transparency calls

PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 March 2019

Portishead Folk Hall. Picture: Google

Portishead Folk Hall. Picture: Google

Google

Fears the achievements and efforts of people from Portishead will be 'written out of history' have been raised.

Portishead Town Council has voted to no longer include the names of voters addressing councillors at meetings in the authority’s minutes – prompting some concern and upset.

The decision was motivated by concerns over data protection rules, however resident Annette Hennessy disputed the claims at the town council’s meeting at the Folk Hall on March 13.

She argued the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has imposed no restriction on councils naming speakers in documents.

Weston, Nailsea and Clevedon’s town councils do not include the names of public speakers in its records, however North Somerset Council does.

Mrs Hennessy told the town council: “I have since spoken to the ICO and it is going to write to confirm it has not told you anything in regard to names not being on the minutes.

“There is no wording which says residents’ names must be in minutes and there is no evidence to say residents’ names must not be in the minutes.

“I would urge you to think carefully how you wish to represent Portishead because excluding our names from minutes with no sound basis is not an open and transparent way of dealing with things.”

Cllr John Clark sympathised with Mrs Hennessy’s argument.

He said: “I am prepared to accept the legal advice we have got but I do so without any enthusiasm.

“I would not like incidents to be written out of history. How we do it I don’t know. I think it’s something we will have to come back to and find some way of recognising the valuable contribution large numbers of people make in this town and not exclude them from official documents.”

Cllr Arthur Terry said it was unnecessary to name people who addressed the town council.

He added: “There’s no reason if anyone in Portishead carries out something of merit this town council could formally thank them and it be written into the minutes.

“It does not exclude thanks being given to people who merit thanks from the town.

“I don’t see it necessary to write everyone’s name into the minutes just because they addressed the town council.”

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