the new Chief Executive’s declaration of war against the press in
general and me in particular by petulantly withdrawing the Press Desk which has
been a feature of Bexley's Council meetings for ever and a day I thought she
would appreciate her name being brought to the attention of the Secretary of
State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP.
I sent him the following letter earlier today.
Dear Mr. Javid,
One of your predecessors, Sir Eric Pickles legislated to make it much easier for what he called citizen journalists to report Council meetings. Bexley Council was one of several that had been highlighted for their unreasonable behaviour, calling the police to those who wished to record the proceedings. The lies told about residents by Bexley Council following an incident of that nature were so extreme that the police sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service where it is still under consideration for a Misconduct in Public Office charge against four individuals.
However Bexley Council has found a loophole in Sir Eric’s regulations the relevant part of which is as follows.
Councils or local government bodies are required to provide “reasonable facilities” to facilitate reporting. This should include space to view and hear the meetings, seats, and ideally a desk. Councils and local government bodies should use their common sense to determine the range of reasonable facilities they can actively provide to support the free press in all its forms.
For longer than anyone can remember, Bexley Council has provided a Press Desk at public meetings, albeit one too often placed where the view is extremely limited.
However the newly appointed Chief Executive in Bexley, Ms. Gill Steward has informed me personally that a Press Desk will no longer be provided because, and I quote, she is not compelled by law to do so.
This as you will recognise is an act of small minded spite. There is no reason for it, there is plenty of space, the facility has never been abused and it flies in the face of your Department’s recommendation that common sense be applied.
Perhaps you could offer some advice to Bexley Council and maybe consider how such petty minded people come to be appointed to such responsible positions. When there is next an opportunity a tightening of the law might be considered.
Why do these overpaid idiots do such things? Surely they know there will be consequences? Secretary of State Javid may now know that the name Gill Steward is synonymous with petty minded petulance.