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Council confirms it will accept comment requests from weekly – but not editor

Neil SpeightA council caught up in a row over a decision to ignore comment requests from a weekly newspaper says the policy only applies to one individual.

Thurrock Council has publicly commented for the first time on its spat with the Thurrock Independent, after it was reported earlier this month that the authority had decided to no longer respond to comment requests from the paper due to what the authority claimed were “vexatious and unreasonable” requests from its editor Neil Speight.

The Independent, founded by Neil 15 months ago, has since received support over the issue from the News Media Association and regional publisher Archant.

The council previously declined to comment on the specifics of individual cases, but has now released a statement confirming the parameters of its policy.

In it, the authority says the issue being discussed involves an “individual”, understood to be Neil, pictured.

The statement reads: “Thurrock Council would like to clarify the position with regards to its communication with the Thurrock Independent due to the recent media coverage and social media discussion on this issue. The council continues to engage with the Thurrock Independent and this position has not changed.

“The case being discussed is an issue between the council and an individual, and as such it is our normal policy not to comment. As the individual concerned has shared publically some of the correspondence between the council and himself, we can confirm that the correspondence relates to the individual only and not the Thurrock Independent newspaper.

“This was a decision taken under the council’s agreed Unreasonable Behaviour Procedure, which is in place to deal with unreasonable and unacceptable behaviour by individuals.

“The Thurrock Independent continue to be on the council’s media distribution list, they have received and covered council releases online and also in the most recent editions of the paper. The council also continues to receive and respond to media enquiries from the Thurrock Independent.”

In response, Neil told HTFP: “I have always regarded local councils as organisations to be watched carefully. I started work in Doncaster at around the T. Dan Smith era and saw one councillor and some officers go to jail. However, I have always tried to be fair – if sometimes very direct.

“I remember once in Scarborough where we had an issue about sewage on the beach and I literally turned up with a bucket of sand and shit at the council offices, asked for the director of environment and gave him the bucket – all with our snapper present. I wanted to see if he would deny there was stuff on the beach.

“He went apoplectic and virtually chucked me out of the building. It made a great story and after some months the council backed a new sewage plant.

“A few days after the bucket incident the director and I had a beer and laughed about it. one of it is personal. It’s the job. I believe it’s called journalism.”

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  • August 23, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Thurrock Council appears to have a talent for keeping on digging when it is already in a hole.

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