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City council press officer gets green light to serve as councillor

A council press officer has been given the green light to serve as a councillor on a neighbouring authority after her employer ruled her role was not “politically restricted”.

Angela Hamilton, who was elected as a Labour councillor in South Tyneside last month, works as a policy and communications officer at Newcastle City Council.

According to the Shields Gazette, many councils consider such roles to be “politically restricted” because they involve speaking to the press, meaning those who work in them are disqualified from standing for election in order to maintain the political neutrality of the council’s non-elected officials.

But Newcastle says Councillor Hamilton’s job does not fall under that category because of the ‘wide range’ of tasks she performs.

Angela Hamilton

Cllr Greg Stone, Newcastle Liberal Democrat spokesman, told the Gazette his party would seek assurances over council officers’ political involvement as a result of the decision.

He said: “I think it is important to ensure that there is no overlap between party political activity and the council’s non-political activity.

“Certain council employees are not supposed to be involved in party political activity and that should be strictly enforced.

“We will be seeking assurances from the council chief executive that proper processes have been put in place to ensure that there is a divide between the political and the non-political.”

Under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 any role that is deemed to involve “speaking on behalf of the authority on a regular basis to journalists or broadcasters” should be politically restricted.

A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “The role of communication officer is not politically restricted at the city council.

“Our officers perform a wide range of communication tasks, and are aware of the requirement to act politically impartially at all times while at work.”

Cllr Hamilton, pictured, declined to comment when approached by the Gazette.

A South Tyneside spokesman said: “Candidates must satisfy at least one of four qualifications in order to stand in local elections.

“Coun Hamilton met the qualification of living and being registered to vote in the Borough and signed a declaration that she was not disqualified from being elected. “It rests with the candidate to be satisfied that they are not disqualified.”


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  • June 1, 2018 at 10:26 am

    Sorry but I disagree with the decision. For better or for worse I took a decision which I stuck to during my 50 years as a reporter not to “join” any club or organisation which could be the cause of a conflict of interest when it came to reporting various stories.

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  • June 1, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve just checked and all three councils in my area list the press officer/s as a politically restricted role in their constitutions.

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  • June 1, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    If this person was actually a press officer then this would be an issue. The Local Government and Housing Act counts one of the reasons that a post should be politically restricted is if it involves ‘speaking on behalf of the authority on a regular basis to journalists or broadcasters’, which means press officers.

    However, the person’s Linkedin profile seems to show they are not actualy a press officer. Their job title lists them as a ‘policy and communication business officer’. The detail on the profile says she leads ‘on International work including international relations, event and conference organising, policy development and civic and economic partner working.’ Furthermore, it adds: ‘My role also involved identifying implications of national policy and legislation on Newcastle before national decisions are finalised.’ So she doesn’t seem to be a press officer and it looks like she works in sme kind of role facilitating inward investment. I don’t know why the council didn’t just say that, or why the journo who wrote it o the Shields Gazette didn’t check. I’m guessing everyone seems to have got their knickers in a twist because she has the word commuication in her job title.

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