THURROCK Independent editor Neil Speight has been informed by Thurrock Council’s chief executive Lyn Carpenter that the council will no longer respond to questions and communications posed to the authority relating to the way the council operates.
Effectively she is placing a ban on any response by the authority to investigative reporting by the newspaper, with Mr Speight accused of being ‘vexatious’ in pursuit of the council’s accountability to the residents of Thurrock.
Last week it was announced that a complaint that this newspaper was inaccurate in its reporting and comment on Thurrock Council affairs was thrown out by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
We had commented that Thurrock Council was one that operated in secrecy and in contempt of the public of Thurrock. That view was upheld by the adjudicating panel.
The council’s communications policy came under question from councillors at last week’s full meeting of the council when members questioned the state of the communications department with local media.
Award-winning journalist Mr Speight, who has spent 40 years in the newspaper industry, said: “Quite frankly I thought there was nothing left that Thurrock Council under the current administration could do to surprise me, but then again it appears I have underestimated Ms Carpenter’s passion for secrecy and the absolute contempt she appears to have for democracy and the residents of Thurrock as she seeks to hide failings of the authority under her guidance.
“I have edited newspapers in Thurrock since 2004 and myself and the several chief executives who proceeded Ms Carpenter and the council and group leaders of all political persuasions have always got on and recognised that there will be times when we have to agree to disagree and move on but Ms Carpenter is the champion of autocracy and she appears to brook no challenge to her power.
“This ruling from her directly to myself is shocking – what will be all the more shocking is if the elected representatives of Thurrock Council do not immediately respond by forcing her to revoke it. I cannot believe that senior councillors have been consulted about this decision and approved her actions, but if that is so, shame on them too.
“There can be no place for a council that will not bear a challenge to its workings, nor one that deems it cannot be held accountable.
“I thought the recent IPSO judgement might have brought Ms Carpenter to her senses but it appears to have tipped her over the edge. How fit she is to run this council I leave to others to judge, but I would hope 49 councillors will stand as one and challenge this affront to democracy.
“I have nothing to hide from, nor be ashamed of as editor of this newspaper and with this story I publish the correspondence referred to in February and my response then to the council.
“I shall step back and watch matters evolve but I can assure all the residents of Thurrock that my newspaper will continue to challenge Thurrock Council where appropriate and we will continue to operate with the guidelines of IPSO, which the council says is its expected standard of journalistic practice – a standard IPSO itself says we have adhered to.
“In January, when I branded the council one of secrecy and contempt I asked what it had to hide. Given Ms Carpenter’s actions today, I have to repeat that question.”