South London council holds secret finance meetings behind closed doors

Merton Council has defended holding financial meetings behind closed doors in a secret snub to voters.

Meetings of the authority’s financial monitoring task group have started to be held without agendas being uploaded to the council’s website.

The latest meeting was held on Tuesday night (November 30) but wasn’t live streamed and won’t be uploaded to the council’s YouTube page.

A Merton Council spokesperson said: “The Financial Monitoring Task Group is an informal working group of councillors and is not a formal sub-committee of the council. Therefore it does not need to be open to the public or the agendas published.”

Liberal Democract councillor Paul Kohler is part of the committee that discusses the latest financial state of the council.

He agrees with a decision not the hold the meetings in public.

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The meetings and agendas did used to be uploaded by the council – though the last time this happened was in February.

Cllr Kohler claimed: “On balance I don’t think it should be held in public, it would mean everyone would grand stand.

“Now it doesn’t have to have a Labour majority, people don’t just peddle the line in public, rather we can work together.

“It used to be held in public but this was an anomaly, it was breaking the rules as there was not a Labour majority.”

But local campaigner Mark Gale thinks the meetings should be held in public. He runs Merton TV, which has been recording council meetings since 2018.

He took to Twitter to accuse the council of “not wanting public scrutiny”.

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