Royston Town Council says new media policy will not gag members from speaking to the press

PUBLISHED: 17:04 05 September 2014 | UPDATED: 17:04 05 September 2014

Royston Town Council says its new policy will not affect members talking to the press

Royston Town Council says its new policy will not affect members talking to the press

Archant

A council says it will not be putting a ‘gagging order’ on members after introducing a new policy concerning talking to the press.

Royston Town Council’s media relations policy is a requirement of its Quality Council status.

Members of the council’s finance committee approved the draft at a meeting on Monday.

Councillor Les Baker, a former journalist and Crow editor, said: “It is a policy which confirms that we appreciate freedom of speech which, after all, is a vital part of our local democracy.

“I think this is the common sense approach to putting in place a media policy which we need under the requirements of being a Quality Council. It is, I believe, a realistic and practical policy.”

The policy states that members are free to speak to the press on any subject, as long as they make it clear that they are expressing their own views.

Local government’s relationship with the media hit the headlines earlier this year, when guidelines from the National Association of Local Councils suggested elected representatives shouldn’t speak directly to journalists.

These have now been revised after being branded ‘Stalinist’ by communities minister Eric Pickles.

Mr Baker, a Labour councillor, said: “Those guidelines were completely unacceptable and draconian – indeed for once I could agree with Eric Pickles.

“Our policy will ensure that all members can continue to speak to the press while at the same time understanding that under our own code of conduct there will be occasions when it would not be appropriate.

“It clearly demonstrates that this town council is not one which will impose a gagging order on members.”

The policy will now be put to full council for approval at its next meeting on September 22.

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