Dear Sir,

The Labour Party announced their Manifesto in the Newton News on 22nd March which was unsigned.

Also a Labour candidate was in a photo which apppeared in an article against the Benefit Cuts – all I believe against “Purdah” rules which says there should be no self-promotion during an election period.

The rules clearly state proactive publicity involving candidates must cease and they must not be involved in any controversial issues.

Care should be taken on the use and content of websites and all responses to events and enquiries should be factual and non Party political.

They are asked to avoid proactive events and if they do need to attend, candidates should not be involved.

Requests for advice and information from candidates or their Parties should be treated with even handedness.

Great Aycliffe Town Clerk has issued these rules to all candidates, but it appears some sittting councillors are failing to adhere to them.

Maud Gray

EDITOR: We asked a Labour Party member to respond to  this letter and received  the following reply:

The guidance in the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity in the pre-election period,  says that  ” a local authority” must not at any time publish any material that in whole or in part appears to be designed to affect support for a political party or a candidate.

The restrictions apply six weeks before an election and up to and including the day of the election.  Councillors can attend events but the same restrictions apply about quoting them in any council publicity. Councillors can create their own publicity, the restrictions only apply about quoting them in any council publicity.

Individual councillors can generate their own publicity during this period.  The restrictions only apply to official council organised publicity including press releases or events. The rules in the councillor and officer protocols about use of council facilities must be observed.

The Elected Members Code of Conduct contains a general obligation upon councillors to have regard to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. Councillors involved in the election will not be quoted in proactive news releases issued by their Council.

The Code of Conduct covers areas of individual behaviour such as Councillors not abusing their position or not misusing their authority’s resources, it does not apply to Candidates or Parties.  This means that any current County or Town Councillor can be called Councillor and  can have any publicity in a newspaper, as long as they do not purport to be speaking or acting on behalf of their Council

The only restrictions are that the County Council or Town Council itself as corporate bodies , and  staff and  facilities should not be seen in the election purdah period as giving publicity to Councillors seeking re election . . . thus Councillor John Clare has not broken any rules whatsoever,  nor the Labour Party nor Newton News. Free speech continues.

Arun M Chandran