DURHAM County Council is considering opening its secret cabinet meetings to the public.

The authority, which provides major services, such as education and social services, to all areas of County Durham apart from Darlington, will look at the move in the next few months.

Already, Durham City Council, Newcastle City Council and Darlington Borough Council have opened their cabinet meetings.

Cabinets have no legal power to take decisions - they can only make recommendations to an executive committee which meets in public - but the Government plans to change that in the near future.

But there has been concern, which prompted a campaign by The Northern Echo, that the new structure is needlessly secret and is hiding decision-making from electors.

Councillor Don Robson, leader of the Labour-run county council, said: "It is one of the options we are looking at. It is likely a report will go to the full council in October or November.''

Coun Robson said that voters appeared unconcerned about the issue. "I never have had a single letter about it,'' he said.

Tony Moore, Independent county councillor for Shildon North-East, said: "I've pushed for the cabinet meetings to be open, and I'm glad they are looking at it.

"These Labour councils are falling like dominoes, but their cabinets shouldn't have been closed in the first place.

"It has become an embarrassment to these councils. I believe everything should be seen to be above aboard.

"Even if the public doesn't turn up to the meetings, people should be able to if they want.

"At looks like this council has maybe seen the folly of its ways and seen some common sense