Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the local press would be given more powers to keep “big wigs on their toes”, during a speech in Solihull last weekend.
Addressing the Society of Editors at The Forest of Arden Hotel, in Meriden, the cabinet minister said that local and regional newspapers played an invaluable role in holding the powerful to account.
And he pledged that new legislation would make the journalists’ job of scrutinising local politicians easier
Among a raft of changes due to be introduced, local councils will find it more difficult to hold meetings in private.
“We’re putting a stop to those feeble excuses for closing a meeting to the public and press without due warning,” said Mr Pickles.
“Councils must give 28 days notice of their intention to hold any meetings behind closed doors and their reasons for doing so.”
A refusal to supply certain documents could see local authorities fined, while papers will also be entitled to file stories from inside the council chamber itself.
The MP said that giving the press greater access to decision-making sessions built on the legislation which first gave journalists the right to report on council meetings over 50 years ago.
“The private members’ bill, brought by then backbench MP Margaret Thatcher in 1960, opened up town halls to new scrutiny.
“Where Mrs Thatcher boldly opened the door, we’ve removed the hinges,” added Mr Pickles.