By Ian Dipple Wednesday 30 October 2013 Updated: 01/11 07:23
A PROPOSAL which would have restricted councillors' dealings with the media has been thrown out.
Under the plan councillors would have to run any information they planned to release to the media through Redditch Borough Council's communications team to check for accuracy and ensure a right to reply for any councillor quoted, before it was sent out.
The recommendation was the result of an investigation into councillors Juliet Brunner and Gay Hopkins following a complaint made in October last year by planning portfolio holder Coun Greg Chance they had breached the council's code of conduct.
The complaint relates to an article published in the Redditch Advertiser based on a press release by councillors Brunner and Hopkins claiming Coun Chance had stated at an overview and scrutiny committee the council was planning to build factories on the Winyates Green triangle. He later refuted the allegations in the Standard.
An independent investigator found while 'licence had been taken' in the way Coun Chance's views were reported, it was part of the 'political interaction in which councillors were engaged in order to gain political advantage' and a lack of regulation around press releases and councillors contact with the media meant there was no breach of the code, but it was recommended rules were developed.
But at a Standards Committee meeting last Thursday (October 24) councillors rejected the idea of seeking prior approval for media releases for fear it would limit councillors freedom of expression.
Coun Pat Witherspoon, committee chairman, told the Standard : "There was a fairly unanimous view that what we did not want to do was to stop people talking to the press and expressing an opinion.
"We should have a robust enough system that when something is said that's a bit out of order we can deal with it not stop people talking to the press.
"However, what was said was we do need more guidance and that's going to be looked at but it's guidance more than regulation."
Coun Brunner criticised the length of time the investigation took and the £1,532.50 cost.
"The investigation has been a terrible strain on myself and my family and I'm happy it's now at an end."
Coun Hopkins added: "I'm glad the committee reached this conclusion that we hadn't actually breached the code of conduct."
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