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Editor quits charity in council deselection row

A weekly newspaper editor has resigned from a charitable body set up to support local people in need in the wake of a political row.

Gary Shipton, editor of the Horsham-based West Sussex County Times had served as a member of the Chairman’s Trust on Horsham Borough Council.

However he has now confirmed that he has withdrawn from the body after the council’s prospective next chairman was deselected by Tory council colleagues.

Coun Christian Mitchell, who had been due to become chairman of the authority in the spring, was axed by his own group after speaking out against a housing development on his local patch.

The Trust was set up by the current council chairman Philip Circus to raise money to support those people in need in the district and has been strongly backed by the County Times.

Said Gary: “I congratulate Mr Circus and his wife Gaenor on forming the Trust and on the huge amount of work they have personally put into making its very worthwhile aims a reality. It has been a pleasure to support them.

“But the role of chairman has always been a politically neutral one and it was on this basis that I agreed to become a trustee.

“For the Conservative Party to use a three line whip to deselect the chairman elect Christian Mitchell seemingly to punish him for speaking out on behalf of his constituents is contrary to the County Times’ ethos of maintaining its own politically neutral position and of defending freedom of expression.”

The row follows a meeting last week when the Tory group – under instruction of a three line whip – broke with tradition and said Coun Mitchell, the current vice-chairman, would not take over as chairman in May.

Mr Mitchell said it was the price that he had to pay for articulating local residents’ concerns over plans to build thousands of homes to the north of the town.


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  • March 19, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Mr Shipton’s grandstanding on this matter is actually quite embarrassing as he appears not to be aware of some basic facts.
    Councillors get deselected all the time, and it’s rarely for the official reasons given.
    The chairman’s role only becomes politically neutral when he assumes the post. The fact he is chairman elect doesn’t matter one bit. Even chairmen elect can end up not being appointed due to a change in political control of the council at election time. Or even the chairman might not be re-elected to their seat just before they are due to take up the post, which occasionally happens.
    Chairmen and Mayor posts are always appointed by the political groups anyway, so the idea there is no political element to appointments is incorrect.
    Seems an unnecessary resignation to me.

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  • March 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Sounds like he did the right thing, though. He would have been semi-party to nasty political shenanigans.

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