Gagging councillors? You’ve got to be joking…

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the story tucked away on page 19 of today’s editions of The Sentinel.
It seems the city council has done a u-turn and ditched plans for a so-called ‘media protocol’ which would have limited elected members as to what they could say to the media.
The gagging policy – because, dress it up however you like, that’s what it was – was aimed at preventing councillors speaking independently to the likes of The Sentinel and BBC Radio Stoke.
Laughably, details of this nonsensical document were leaked to the newspaper for which I work from the colander that is the Civic Centre.
Clearly many councillors were unhappy with the idea and so they should be.
This kind of draconian measure, drawn up by someone who believes it is possible to have 44 elected members ‘speaking with one voice’ and never criticising the local authority, is an embarrassing attempt to somehow dictate what the media can and cannot report on.
Let me say this to whoever came up with this bright idea: It’s never going to happen and you need to do your homework.
The fact is, despite what certain people may think, the vast majority – around 75 per cent of the stories relating to, for example, the city council – which are published in The Sentinel – are either positive or neutral.
Thus this idea that the council only ever gets negative publicity is just plain wrong.
More to the point, surely it is in the best interests of council taxpayers for elected members to be able to speak their minds.
I’m not surprised the council refused to discuss the reasons for the withdrawal of the ‘media protocol’. Whoever came up with the idea ought to hang his or her head in shame.

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