The boss of an organisation which told councillors not to talk to the press has denied government accusations of ‘Stalinism’ in an interview with his local paper.
Ken Browse is a parish councillor in Halberton, Devon and also chair of the National Asscociation of Local Councillors.
Last month we reported that the NALC had written to all 9,000 of its member councils saying councillors should not speak to the press without the written consent of the whole authority.
The move sparked outrage with communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles branding it “Stalinist” and urging councils to ignore it.
But speaking to the Mid Devon Gazette, Coun Browse denied that the guidance amounted to a “ban” on contacts with the media.
He said: “We want our 9,000 parish councils to have more dealings with the media. Councils are doing a brilliant job improving their area and we want the media to report that.
“Our 200-page book, ‘Local Councils Explained’, helps councils navigate their way through endless red tape, bureaucracy and arcane laws created by successive governments.
“It does not bar councillors from speaking to the media, but explains the legal framework that governs them.”
The guidance says that any contact by councillors with journalists requires the council’s prior written consent, and that councillors cannot provide verbal or written statements to the media without such consent.
Mr Pickles has written to the NALC to call for the immediate withdrawal of the advice which he termed “completely inappropriate.”
He said: “Freedom of speech is a vital part of local democracy. Councillors must be able to challenge waste and inefficiency, and should not have to get permission from state officials to speak to the press.
A number of council leaders have since said they have no intention of implementing the guidelines.