Council delays policy on how it will gag elected members

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First published in News

COUNCILLORS have delayed a decision on introducing a new media policy that could gag elected representatives from speaking to the media.

Witney Town Council’s new communications and media working party met in private on Monday to discuss the Department for Communities and Local Government’s guide to ‘Open and accountable local government’.

In the special meeting of the policy and finance committee held in public afterwards, Councillor David Harvey said the working party “welcomed” the new legislation.

But he said it will wait for further information from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) before it outlines its new media policy.

The council unveiled a draft media policy in April, which was modelled on NALC guidelines and said councillors would need to seek “prior written consent” from the town clerk before speaking or writing to the media.

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Comments (9)

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7:57am Fri 8 Aug 14

Mrs Arcanum says...

I am appalled that local councillors at this level even have a working party that would consider gagging elected representatives.

Whatever happened to transparency, with only tenders, private individuals and staff matters being off public record?
I am appalled that local councillors at this level even have a working party that would consider gagging elected representatives. Whatever happened to transparency, with only tenders, private individuals and staff matters being off public record? Mrs Arcanum
  • Score: 3

9:23am Fri 8 Aug 14

C ARINGAROSA says...

Nothing ever surprises me about this council with its infinite stupidity, the question must be asked, who is running the town?, the councillors or the officers. As for gagging, remember this is England a country of free speech and democracy. An elected councillor must be able to use his or her discretion when the need to speak out arises, without constaint by non elected bolshie officers. No person would tell me what to say or not to say on non restricted items of interest. I do however fully realise that there are things, as Mrs Arcanum says that do need privacy,
C. Aringarosa, Corn Street, Witney.
Nothing ever surprises me about this council with its infinite stupidity, the question must be asked, who is running the town?, the councillors or the officers. As for gagging, remember this is England a country of free speech and democracy. An elected councillor must be able to use his or her discretion when the need to speak out arises, without constaint by non elected bolshie officers. No person would tell me what to say or not to say on non restricted items of interest. I do however fully realise that there are things, as Mrs Arcanum says that do need privacy, C. Aringarosa, Corn Street, Witney. C ARINGAROSA
  • Score: 5

9:38am Fri 8 Aug 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

The simple answer to this is:-

When a potential councillor "doorsteps" you seeking your vote, ask them if they consent to be gagged...
The simple answer to this is:- When a potential councillor "doorsteps" you seeking your vote, ask them if they consent to be gagged... Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 7

10:56am Fri 8 Aug 14

Witney Town Council says...

We would like to take this opportunity to address a couple of inaccuracies in this story. Firstly, the meeting was an internal working party meeting rather than a council meeting and it gave an oral report to the Policy and Finance committee meeting that followed. Secondly, the matter under discussion was new legislation, 'Openness of Local Government Bodies regulations 2014 - Recording and reporting of proceedings by the media and residents of the area' and NOT a draft media policy. This new legislation is welcomed by Witney Town Council and it will be doing all that is necessary to facilitate its implementation. The new legislation will require an amendment to existing standing orders and this was discussed along with what reasonable provision the council needs to make to facilitate reporting and recording. The council is also considering how to accommodate this in a manner that causes minimal disruption and that addresses the rights of the general public under the Data Protection Act 1998.
We would like to take this opportunity to address a couple of inaccuracies in this story. Firstly, the meeting was an internal working party meeting rather than a council meeting and it gave an oral report to the Policy and Finance committee meeting that followed. Secondly, the matter under discussion was new legislation, 'Openness of Local Government Bodies regulations 2014 - Recording and reporting of proceedings by the media and residents of the area' and NOT a draft media policy. This new legislation is welcomed by Witney Town Council and it will be doing all that is necessary to facilitate its implementation. The new legislation will require an amendment to existing standing orders and this was discussed along with what reasonable provision the council needs to make to facilitate reporting and recording. The council is also considering how to accommodate this in a manner that causes minimal disruption and that addresses the rights of the general public under the Data Protection Act 1998. Witney Town Council
  • Score: -7

12:20pm Fri 8 Aug 14

Marco00 says...

Witney Town Council wrote:
We would like to take this opportunity to address a couple of inaccuracies in this story. Firstly, the meeting was an internal working party meeting rather than a council meeting and it gave an oral report to the Policy and Finance committee meeting that followed. Secondly, the matter under discussion was new legislation, 'Openness of Local Government Bodies regulations 2014 - Recording and reporting of proceedings by the media and residents of the area' and NOT a draft media policy. This new legislation is welcomed by Witney Town Council and it will be doing all that is necessary to facilitate its implementation. The new legislation will require an amendment to existing standing orders and this was discussed along with what reasonable provision the council needs to make to facilitate reporting and recording. The council is also considering how to accommodate this in a manner that causes minimal disruption and that addresses the rights of the general public under the Data Protection Act 1998.
What a load of political claptrap............
[quote][p][bold]Witney Town Council[/bold] wrote: We would like to take this opportunity to address a couple of inaccuracies in this story. Firstly, the meeting was an internal working party meeting rather than a council meeting and it gave an oral report to the Policy and Finance committee meeting that followed. Secondly, the matter under discussion was new legislation, 'Openness of Local Government Bodies regulations 2014 - Recording and reporting of proceedings by the media and residents of the area' and NOT a draft media policy. This new legislation is welcomed by Witney Town Council and it will be doing all that is necessary to facilitate its implementation. The new legislation will require an amendment to existing standing orders and this was discussed along with what reasonable provision the council needs to make to facilitate reporting and recording. The council is also considering how to accommodate this in a manner that causes minimal disruption and that addresses the rights of the general public under the Data Protection Act 1998.[/p][/quote]What a load of political claptrap............ Marco00
  • Score: 6

2:46pm Fri 8 Aug 14

Man on the Green says...

The statement by the unnamed Town Council officer perfectly illustrates why the issue of open democracy is too important to be left to such individuals. It is a very model of obfuscation, and of how to duck the real issues by trying to throw sand in our eyes. It utterly fails to acknowledge the substance of the public's expressed concerns, let alone the flagrant disconnect between the Town Council's cackhanded and inept attempts to muzzle elected members & the explicit wish of the Secretary of State to encourage openness and transparency and discourage councils from seeking the gag their members. Caught with their pants down, the Town Council appears to have sought to see how they could wriggle their way off the hook on which they had impaled themselves. It's good to know that Cllr Harvey "welcome" the new guidance. Hopefully, having nailed his colours to the mast, he will not turn and run when the matter comes back for decision.

We really do need much more accountable and open local (& national!) democracy, and part of that begins with ending the knee jerk reaction of petty bureaucrats to hide their own allowances, pension top-ups & sundry perks.
The statement by the unnamed Town Council officer perfectly illustrates why the issue of open democracy is too important to be left to such individuals. It is a very model of obfuscation, and of how to duck the real issues by trying to throw sand in our eyes. It utterly fails to acknowledge the substance of the public's expressed concerns, let alone the flagrant disconnect between the Town Council's cackhanded and inept attempts to muzzle elected members & the explicit wish of the Secretary of State to encourage openness and transparency and discourage councils from seeking the gag their members. Caught with their pants down, the Town Council appears to have sought to see how they could wriggle their way off the hook on which they had impaled themselves. It's good to know that Cllr Harvey "welcome[s]" the new guidance. Hopefully, having nailed his colours to the mast, he will not turn and run when the matter comes back for decision. We really do need much more accountable and open local (& national!) democracy, and part of that begins with ending the knee jerk reaction of petty bureaucrats to hide their own allowances, pension top-ups & sundry perks. Man on the Green
  • Score: 2

3:14pm Fri 8 Aug 14

skcollob says...

Andrew:Oxford wrote:
The simple answer to this is:-

When a potential councillor "doorsteps" you seeking your vote, ask them if they consent to be gagged...
Good idea Andrew, however in the 41 years i have lived in west oxon, i have been doorstopped only once, and that was a few months ago when the UKIP candidate came round and actually asked me if i have any concerns, that is the only time in 41 yrs i have been asked.The local Tories here in witney and carterton do not give a **** what the people who elect them actually think or care about and they will do what they want regardless of the majority of public opinion. So i`ll treat them with the same contempt they treat us by not voting for them as they are not worthy of my vote.
[quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: The simple answer to this is:- When a potential councillor "doorsteps" you seeking your vote, ask them if they consent to be gagged...[/p][/quote]Good idea Andrew, however in the 41 years i have lived in west oxon, i have been doorstopped only once, and that was a few months ago when the UKIP candidate came round and actually asked me if i have any concerns, that is the only time in 41 yrs i have been asked.The local Tories here in witney and carterton do not give a **** what the people who elect them actually think or care about and they will do what they want regardless of the majority of public opinion. So i`ll treat them with the same contempt they treat us by not voting for them as they are not worthy of my vote. skcollob
  • Score: 0

7:09pm Fri 8 Aug 14

Myron Blatz says...

Honest, truthful, totally transparent local councils and politicians? For dreamworld, try Disney!
Honest, truthful, totally transparent local councils and politicians? For dreamworld, try Disney! Myron Blatz
  • Score: 3

11:52am Thu 21 Aug 14

DEnright says...

Accountability is part of it, openness too, but what we really want to see is the business of democracy opened up and inviting everyone to be part of it. Here's an example - I am recruiting for a group of interested local people to become Friends of Witney Cemeteries. This user group will be open to everyone and provide guidance for the council on the use and development of the cemeteries. If councillors vote against the group we will have to think again, but I don't see that as likely. Other options to open up democracy include active community and resident associations - anyone interested please get in touch. Cllr Duncan Enright
Accountability is part of it, openness too, but what we really want to see is the business of democracy opened up and inviting everyone to be part of it. Here's an example - I am recruiting for a group of interested local people to become Friends of Witney Cemeteries. This user group will be open to everyone and provide guidance for the council on the use and development of the cemeteries. If councillors vote against the group we will have to think again, but I don't see that as likely. Other options to open up democracy include active community and resident associations - anyone interested please get in touch. Cllr Duncan Enright DEnright
  • Score: 0

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