Monday, January 30, 2023

Tories press Labour on council newspaper contract

A WAR OF WORDS has broken out between Labour and the Conservatives over the decision to hand the Thurrock Council contract to a company is HQ is outside the borough.

Tory candidate for Grays Thurrock, Traci Barnes may be a first time candidate but has come out fighting on the issue of the controversial contract which saw the Essex Enquirer win the £150,000 advertising contract from under the noses of the Thurrock Gazette.

In her campaign leaflet, Traci addresses the subject of Grays Beach Park and the question of it being sold off. Traci states: “It’s not. Those lucky enough to still get the Gazette after Labour put the councils advertising budget in a Billericay based newspaper have read about Labour’s scaremongering.”

The leader of the Labour group and council leader, cllr John Kent has defended the process to YT.

He said: “When we came to power, we asked various departments what they spent on advertising. They didn’t know. We wanted to streamline the process and make it more coherent. But from that point onwards, it is in the hands of the officers. They make the decisions. Ms Barnes seems to be ill-informed.”

In November last year, Thurrock Council’s head of comms Phil McCusker spoke to PR Week and explained what they, along with many other authorities, were planning to do and said his authority was planning to scrap its local publication and instead form a partnership with a local media company.

Mr McCusker said: ‘We spend money on advertising, so how do we form a partnership with one of the local media suppliers? We’re going to pitch it out now.’

YT attempted to speak to Ms Barnes and so phoned the contact number on her leaflet called ‘Intouch”. Unfortunately the number relates to Pink Moon Cruises in York.

A spokesperson said: “No, we are not associated with the Conservative Party in Thurrock or anywhere. We run luxury cruises around the York area.

“We do hope that the Tories or anyone from Thurrock will come up and visit us.

YT also contacted the promoter of the leaflet, Ben Maney, as well as the Tory leader, deputy leader and campaign strategist but they have not replied.

YT did receive a reply from the editor of the Thurrock Enquirer, Neil Speight.

Thurrock Enquirer editor Neil Speight, who lives in Stanford-le-Hope, said: “I fully respect the rights of all candidates to say what they want and fight their battles as well as they can but accuracy and truth have a part to play in that.

“To suggest the Labour group had any influence on the awarding of a contract is a gross defamation by these candidates and their advisors, who should know better, of officers who manage the procurement operation. It unjustly questions their integrity.

“Thurrock Conservatives recently accused their Labour counterparts of scaremongering – perhaps a legitimate political move, but I think for Conservatives to draw officers into the political wrangling for doing their best to obtain best value for Thurrock residents is unfair and far worse.

“Regarding people being ‘lucky to get a Gazette’ – well the facts are quite simple.

“Over the past seven years the circulation of the Gazette has dropped, in pursuit of profit, by many thousands as Gannett, who run the Gazette and Newsquest Essex, attempts to make financial savings to boost profits for its American shareholders.

“Regarding the concerns of these would-be councillors about the fact that the parent company of the Thurrock Enquirer is based in Billericay, where our senior staff work less than ten miles outside the Borough, perhaps they would be interested to pop in and see the Enquirer’s Gannett counterparts. The office is in McLean, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC! Or perhaps they would like to ask a question of the Newsquest pre-press operation, part-based on the Indian sub-continent after Essex people were made redundant.”


  1. Desperate times call for desperate measures…….

    How strange nobody can be contacted in the Tory Party to answer these allegations. Ben Maney, no answer. Leader Gary Hague, no answer, and the candidate Traci Barnes who has printed a contact number in York yet the company who know nothing of her standing as candidate in Thurrock.

    What this article shows is that yet again we have the Thurrock Tories writing vote winning headlines on their election leaftlets but with no substance to back it up.

    They do not take the 5 minutes it takes to look at what sits behind the headline and where it may take them. They think that the electorate will believe anything that they write and never have the savvy to question it.

    Was it not just a couple of months ago that Gary Hague asked John Kent had the correct procedure been followed for this contract only to be shot down in the council chamber when John Kent pointed out to Gary Hague was actually at the Overview and Scrutiny meeting where the recommendation took place….

    What really worries me is the damage that the Thurrock Tories are doing to their relationship with the officers that work at the council. we have had budget decisions pushed through that have not be worked on. They left the new Chief Executive wide open to the solicitors around privatising Grays beach park and now we have them again pointing the finger at council officers in the press office and opting to prop up an American companies share holders in favour of a local company.

    Sounds like this candidate if elected will be as useful as a chocolate poker to her residents…….

  2. Can anyone tell me if there are any other candidates running for the Chadwell St Mary ward?
    As we still haven’t heard or seen anyone apart from Tony Fish (Labour)!

  3. Tories are just upset because they didn’t think of this when they were in power.

    If I recall they wanted to start their own fortnightly newspaper costing a small fortune.

    And PMSL at Sting for pointing out Garry Hague was at the meeting when this was discussed. Don’t they remember where they were and what was discussed.

  4. The only occasion you see a Tory in Aveley is at election time. What’s more is Maureen Pearce son Neil Pearce the writer of her leaflets typed on his moist laptop or could it be his to busy being nauseating trying to be the author on another blog website. And Cllr Maney,Redsell Still no comment and Gary hauge they should join the secret service tight lips all through last year’s scandal. They are defiantly in the wrong job. start playing poker for a source of revenue because you three all have poker faces Try and phone some of the Tories they might get back to you by the next election but I must confess Cllr P Anderson is always prompt so is Cllr Lyn Carr. Cllr Anderson your Party needs you definitely as the new leader not Cllr Gledhill


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