|Comrade, Dear Leader, You want Pickles with that?|
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has described new guidelines issued to parish councils from a lobby organisation (NALC) which appears to forbid councillors from speaking to journalists without official consent as "Stalinist".
The "media policy" from the National Association of Local Councils appears to suggest that journalists should contact the "Council Clerk" rather than a councillor directly. It also appears to require journalists to obtain written consent from the clerk if they wish to interview a councillor.
The document passed on to journalists by the Department of Communities and Local Government) uses Sutton Parish Council has an example of the sort of media policy local councils should adopt.
Additionally, councillors may not use the title "councillor" when giving comments in a private capacity.
According to the document councillors who break the rules could be investigated and disciplined.
Pickles said today he is writing to the NALC and telling parish councillors to ignore the policy.
“Freedom of speech is a vital part of local democracy. Councillors must be able to challenge waste and inefficiency, and should not have to get permission from state officials to speak to the press,” he wrote.
“I am concerned that this Stalinist guidance will have a chilling effect on public life. I am making clear its contents are utterly opposed by the Government and it should be withdrawn immediately. We should be championing the independent free press, not trying to suppress it.”
TRIBNOTE The PCC BEADLE stopped two citizens from video recording the council meeting on Monday, just as well really from the latest pictures of Cllr 'Travelling' Turnip; we'd need to deploy the widescreen filter....tsk tsk. Slimming World is one of the commercial firm franchises renting out Stanground Community Centre...
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