WITNEY town councillors have been accused of secrecy after once again barring the Oxford Mail from a meeting over the town’s halls.
The council told the newspaper to leave the meeting on Monday where it was discussing selling Langdale Hall so that it could pay for repairs for the town’s Corn Exchange.
It has claimed there were confidential matters to discuss, but the power it claimed to be using is for the exclusion of both the media and public. It allowed Terry Powell, a member of the public who sits on an advisory group, to stay.
Residents speaking at the annual town meeting at Langdale Hall on Wednesday night asked for an explanation from the council and said they wanted to know more about the progress of the facility’s multi-million pound renovation.
Tony Stark, from Woodford Mill, was concerned about meetings taking place behind closed doors. He said: “People like to know what’s going on, otherwise it feels quite secretive.”
Deputy mayor Jeanette Baker said the council had made an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and had to protect “commercially sensitive” details.
She claimed a previous newspaper report had almost “jeopardised” the funding.
Mrs Baker said: “Once we know more about it, we will be more open about what we’re doing with it. I would like to have more open meetings and transparency but some of it is very commercially sensitive information and until it goes to ratification with full council we can’t take it any further.”
Mrs Baker said Mr Powell was allowed to stay because he had been an “invaluable contributor” in advising the council. She told the 26 residents the Corn Exchange would be a community, heritage and arts centre.