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Editor sacked from council role after refusing to reveal sources

Derek DavisAn editor has been sacked from a senior council role after refusing to reveal his sources to colleagues on the authority.

Derek Davis was removed from Babergh District Council’s coalition cabinet after his work was deemed to be “incompatible” with his role as editor of the Shotley, Hadleigh and Felixstowe Nub News websites.

Derek, pictured, is an Independent member of the council but had been part of a Tory-led coaliton, serving as the portfolio holder for communities, since 2018.

However, he was stripped of the role after alleging council leader John Ward was “pressured” by fellow Conservatives who were unhappy about the content of an anonymous regular column called ‘Rowland Taylor’s Ghost’, published on the Hadleigh website.

His dismissal has since prompted three fellow Independents to resign from their front bench roles too.

Said Derek: “Cllr John Ward told me in a phone call the reasons for getting rid of me was due to the pressure put on him by his Conservative group members who did not like my role as a Nub News editor, in particular criticism from our columnist, Rowland Taylor’s Ghost, towards [Conservative cabinet members] Sian Dawson and Simon Barrett, among others.

“Cllr Ward accepts that I keep both my cabinet/councillor and my work roles very separate. To this extent, I have two phones and two laptops to ensure I keep wearing two different hats effectively.

“In my role as Nub News editor I have always protected my sources, and columnists, and have refused to reveal to Cllr Dawson and Cllr Ward, and indeed others who have asked, who RTG is. I will maintain that position.”

“While I thank John for giving me the opportunity to serve Babergh residents on the two very different cabinets, it is a sad day that he has now allowed himself to be manipulated by his Conservative group.”

Since 1995, Derek has worked for various regional newspapers including the Colchester Daily Gazette and Stoke-on-Trent daily The Sentinel.

He spent nine years as chief football writer at the East Anglian Daily Times and was then a content editor at Newsquest’s East London Guardian series from 2009 to 2013.

Derek was first elected as an Independent councillor in May 2015, five years before he became regional editor for Nub News in Suffolk.

Derek’s dismissal and the subsequent resignations leaves five Conservatives and one Liberal Democrat in the council’s cabinet as it stands.

Those who have resigned are deputy council leader Clive Arthey, as well as Alastair McCraw and Elisabeth Malvisi.

Cllr Ward told BBC local democracy reporter Jason Noble: “My own personal view is that journalists have the freedom to publish, and that is something to be cherished. Events elsewhere in Europe have shown how valuable that is.

“But my group very much believe that journalism and cabinet membership are incompatible.

“The stuff published on Nub News includes contributors – myself included – but some of the stuff is quite personal towards some cabinet members. Derek has a duty to publish material that is submitted.

“I didn’t want to have to do that, I like him and get on well with him.”