03:20PM, Friday 13 April 2018
A senior Tory councillor has compared Slough Borough Council to North Korea, claiming it has broken purdah rules by distributing its own publication to residents.
Opposition councillors were perplexed to discover the April/May edition of Citizen, an in-house publication, was sent to residents, after councillors voted to suspend its distribution four years ago.
Purdah, which began on Monday, March 26, is a period which puts restrictions on what council officers can say or do in the run up to an election.
Councillors voted to keep the publication mainly online and in council buildings and to stop sending it out to public places on environmental grounds.
Slough Conservative Group leader Cllr Wayne Strutton (Haymill and Lynch Hill) said the move was a breach of purdah, pointing out that the magazine contains statements from Labour councillors but no opposition members.
It is understood that the online edition of Citizen was pulled from SBC’s website after a meeting on Tuesday, April 10 and physical copies from places such as doctors’ surgeries have been recalled.
Slough Conservative Group deputy leader Cllr Rayman Bains (Upton) called Citizen a ‘Labour propaganda sheet’.
“This is like North Korea, this is the sort of stuff that Russia does, so it’s incredible that the taxpayer has had to pay for this,” he added.
In response, SBC leader Cllr James Swindlehurst said: “When I became leader of the council in November, I stated clearly that I wanted the council to have a fresh start, to put the issues of the previous 18 months behind us and set out to residents more clearly the excellent work the council is doing to better the town for everyone.”
Cllr Swindlehurst said he wanted to trial the delivery of Citizen and everyone he knew received it between March 15 and March 20. He also said the Royal Mail was instructed to deliver it before purdah began and he is ‘confident’ his instructions were followed.
The council leader said councillors from all parties were told of the magazine’s delivery on February 2.
He added: “Its arrival in March was therefore not a revelation to them, and their feigned mock outrage is somewhat tedious – but I guess to be expected as they look for something to try and generate some press coverage for themselves now we are in the local election communication period – given their lack of any coherent alternative proposals in the council’s budget debate and the vagaries of their undeliverable and uncosted musings in what scant political literature they have put out thus far on their own account.”
SBC’s communications team could not comment due to purdah rules.
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