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Council top brass banned from talking to newspaper

A district council in Buckinghamshire has banned its leaders from speaking to the local newspaper.

Aylesbury Vale District Council has banned its cabinet members and officers from talking to the Bucks Herald amid claims that the title does not print enough positive stories about it.

Instead the authority has told the Johnston Press owned paper and its sister paper the Bucks Advertiser  it will only communicate with them through written statements approved by communications staff.

The Herald news team will  hold a meeting with the council today in a bid to resolve the row.

A written statement from leader of AVDC John Cartwright said: “We are introducing this change to the way we provide quotes to the Bucks Herald because we have a number of ongoing concerns over the way in which stories relating to AVDC and Aylesbury are being reported.

“The Bucks Herald will continue to receive all our press releases and will be invited to media briefings and photo calls.

“It is not uncommon for local authorities to operate a centralised press office to handle media enquiries and requests for interviews.”

Mr  Cartwright added that the council’s communications and marketing team will be issuing written responses to the paper’s questions.

In a separate email to the Herald a council offical hit out at a ‘perceived lack of support’ for the town and said there was a ‘constant flow of negative stories.’

In response to the claims, the Herald published an editorial branding the council’s tactics “clumsy” and reminiscent of “self-important football club chairmen.”

“The Herald will never act as a propaganda sheet for the council, whatever restrictions AVDC’s spin team may put in place. We will continue to ask probing questions on matters of public interest, and we will expect answers,” it said.

“Banning our reporters from speaking directly to cabinet members is a clumsy tactic and will do nothing to get their message across.

“It’s the sort of move often employed by self-important football club chairmen – until they realise they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

“We have, we’re told, shown a ‘perceived lack of support’ for development in the town, presumably by reporting that not everyone agrees with what the leaders say.”


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  • June 17, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Ahh, sweet music! The steady clump-clump-clump of the PR teams as they march into the realms of political control. Size 14s and getting bigger.
    At least it gives the little loveies something to do as the “news” rags they produce are consigned to heat-recycling plants.

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  • June 17, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I’m almost tempted to return to my old stomping ground in Buckinghamshire and act as some sort of mediator. What an utterly crass statement from the council but also the brinkmanship shown by the local paper contains too much pompous rhetoric even for my refined palate.
    Someone, however, should knock some serious heads together and get a grip of local journalism and local government in the 21st century century.
    In Fenland we regularly kick the backsides of our local council, our local councillors and yet still maintain a regular, and paid for, contract to publish a page of council news each week.
    We run umpteen promotions with the council ranging from building design awards, business awards to sporting stars of the future promotions.
    Yet our Tory controlled council would never presume to suppress or dilute any of the controversial issues that have bedevilled them over the years and for one very good reason.
    Our papers actually love our towns. Our paper reflect that warts and all attitude in its coverage of our towns and villages.
    And we begin with the premis that our local councils share that enthusiasm and belief.
    But what I found most surprising of all in this story is that there is no mention at all of the editor by name. Shum mistake shurely?

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  • June 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    When they tried this in Stoke on Trent the members/councillors refused to toe the line, will Aylesbury Vale councillors have the backbone to defend democracy and their right as elected representatives to speak to the press on any issue they want?

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  • June 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    What right have these idiots got to stop elected members talking to the press?
    And when will they realise that a paper does not have to be a cheerleader for a council? Why should they presume that their decisions are so wise that they should not be publicly questioned?
    It reminds me of when a Chief Exec of a council in my area threatened to report an editor to the Audit Commission. The Commission was the sun in his little world – and he presumed it was the sun in the editor’s world. Astounding level of ignorance.
    John Elworthy – a mediator is not required. What is required is for the council to learn its place in the world. The Bucks Herald should hit back very, very hard to let them know that the public, not council ‘directors’, is in charge.

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