COUNCILLORS who voted to bar the press from a standards hearing into comments allegedly made by Lord Mayor Alan Armitage have broken their silence.

Standards committee members Gwynneth Royce, Mike Gotch, James Fry and Dick Wolff voted to exclude the press and public from Wednesday’s meeting at the Town Hall.

It emerged yesterday that Labour Councillor Susanna Pressel also joined their vote.

Since the meeting, three have contacted the Oxford Mail by email to explain why.

Ms Pressel, who represents the Jericho and Osney ward, said: “With great regret I decided to vote against allowing the press in because Jeremy [Thomas, the council’s head of legal] said that if we let you in, we couldn’t say no to anyone else, eg any member of the public.”

Lib Dem Mike Gotch, councillor for Wolvercote, said: “Difficult balance and consequent decision for all of us but I will not comment further.”

James Fry, another Labour councillor, who represents the North ward, said: “The reason we voted to hold it in private was because we were informed that if we allowed press to attend the hearing, then we were obliged to allow members of the public to attend as well, and then the safeguards required to protect the identities of the children involved in the case would have been impossible to enforce.”

Despite being approached by the Oxford Mail, Mr Wolff failed to respond and Ms Royce declined to comment.

The meeting was adjourned for five weeks after Mr Armitage, who is accused of making inappropriate comments to a schoolgirl at an event in Oxford last June, announced he wanted to contest the conclusion of the investigation.