A newspaper editor has claimed that the “lunatics have taken over the asylum” at his local town council and accused it of censorship.
Andrew Bowan, editor of Shropshire weekly the Whitchurch Herald, was so concerned about proposed changes to council standing orders, which would limit the amount of council material made public, that he sent in a letter of protest.
He used the Trinity Mirror-owned weekly’s leader column to attack the council when members not only agreed the new standing orders, but voted not to read the letter until the confidential section of the meeting when the public were excluded.
Bowan said: “I’d taken the unusual step of writing to the councillors as they were meeting on Wednesday night, the day before the Herald is published.
“Normally, I’d have written an editorial arguing my point of view then hope it influenced the debate in a positive manner on Thursday evening. What sort of council is it that needs to take a vote on whether it should open a letter, let alone read it out? “The deeply worrying thing is that, if they won’t even consider what the editor of the local paper has to say, what chance do you think the ordinary person has? “I’m afraid that, if this is the future, God help us.”
The contentious new standing orders include allowing the clerk to decide what correspondence can come up at meetings and which questions are read out to councillors.
Bowan is also concerned over a new rule that councillors must give three days’ notice of any question.
Town clerk Chris Youngs said: “The new standing orders were agreed at the full council in front of the public.
They were democratically decided.”
He said they were based on a model set of rules drawn up for town councils by the National Association of Local Councils.
By Dominic Ponsford