Council chief tried to censor our letters page, says Prestwich editor

The Prestwich Advertiser has condemned a council's chief executive for attempting to stop it printing readers' letters opposing plans to close a college.

The paper received a flurry of letters after publishing part of a document submitted by governors of the Prestwick Arts College to the independent School Organisation Committee, which ultimately decides on whether the college should close.

It claimed the council only planned to close the college in order to get £15m extra government funding — an allegation which Bury Council boss Mark Sanders refuted as "unreasonable, unpalatable and untrue".

After the story was published, and the subsequent barrage of readers' letters, Sanders urged the paper to consider "giving the letters over to a different set of issues this week".

In a letter to the editor, not intended for publication, Sanders said: "There has been a constant bombardment, from a limited number of people, on this issue.

"The Schools Organisation Committee are relatively inexperienced people, not used to the sort of campaigning being exhibited. There is a legal due process that does not allow the other side of the argument to be put. Therefore what is happening is that they are being subjected to the sort of designed pressure to unduly fetter their judgment.

Advertiser editor Vince Hale said: "The letters page provides our readers with an invaluable forum to air their views and debate important issues.

"For a council's chief executive to suggest we ignore those comments for fear of influencing an independent committee is both ludicrous and underhand.

"Our coverage of the school closure proposals has been far from one-sided, but has given the council and parents equal opportunity to comment."

The Advertiser has invited readers to send in their views about Sanders' letter.

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