Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Ipswich Borough Council accused of political bias

The front page of Ipswich Borough Council’s The Angle this month leads with the headline “Will you be hit by welfare cuts?”.  Ipswich Spy reported last week Conservative councillors at the Borough were not happy with the content before it was pushed out.

Either the Communications department at the Council is incompetent or complicit in political campaigning for the Labour Party. The Angle is meant to be an information publication for the residents of Ipswich to keep them up-to-date with council services and community events. It is not meant to be used by the political administration of the day to peddle their “cuts” agenda.
The word “cuts” is loaded and highly political at the present time. The fifth paragraph even says: “These are Government plans
but the Council is advising thousands of Ipswich residents
on benefits that they could be affected.” Why would a neutral local authority newspaper use the word “Government” as if it were a far off entity when in fact the civil servant led aspect of Ipswich Borough Council is merely an extension of the Whitehall civil service. It is a deliberate political piece of writing.
Political parties and people who vote for those parties have differing views on how to deal with the current economic crisis in this country. Some see Government as bloated and requiring cuts in spending to reduce the deficit and pay down the national debt (although the Coalition Government has clearly failed to do that) but others believe the Government is cutting “too far, too fast“, with others actually suggesting we increase public spending (these people are quite mad or bad in my opinion).
But a local authority should not be coming down on one side or another of this debate. The Angle is paid for by the taxpayers of Ipswich who don’t all believe reductions in public spending is a bad thing. The front-page article makes it clear in the headline that is what Ipswich Borough Council as a body (not the political administration who run the council) think: that is wrong and dangerous to our democracy.
The chief civil servant at Grafton House, Russell Williams, should get a grip and ensure the Council abides by the law on civil service impartiality.


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EXCLUSIVE: Press Gallery scrapped at Ipswich Borough Council

Last week I reported on the important announcement that Ipswich Borough Council are to appoint a social media officer at Grafton House.

This prompted me to ask chief executive Russell Williams why the press gallery at the Town Hall only allows access to traditional print media journalists and the Council’s communications chief. I was also keen to know the process I should follow to gain access to the press gallery as I felt bloggers should be treated equally with the dead tree press.
Well, today the blogosphere in Ipswich has won a victory of sorts. Mr Williams has acted swiftly and this afternoon he informed me the Borough Council have decided to scrap the “press gallery” – actually just one table and two chairs – and move the Morning Ipswich Star’s political editor, Paul Geater, and the Council’s communications chief to the public gallery. So in effect, bloggers and traditional media journalists will now report on Council proceeding together in one place. Very cosy.
In related news, Mr Williams also tells me bloggers and other social media outlets will now receive press releases from the Council along with the print and broadcast media. I am told Ipswich Spy have been waiting months to get on the press release list so this will be most welcome in that parish. Gavin Maclure’s Musings intends to request receipt of future press releases and all bloggers can apply to be placed on the list by following the instructions on the Council’s Press Office webpage.
Despite the new social media officer not yet been appointed with the vacancy open for applications until tomorrow, it seems the Council’s top officer team is taking social media seriously now. Ipswich Borough Council should be applauded for facilitating full and transparent reporting of the Council’s activities – a core tenet of democracy – by ensuring both traditional journalists and bloggers are now treated equally when all 48 councillors meet to represent Ipswich residents at the Town Hall.
I look forward to reporting – alongside new and traditional scribes – at the next full meeting of the Council on 26th September.