A BILL before MPs that would ban local authorities from campaigning against government policy, even if they have overwhelming local backing, is being criticised by Labour Council Leader John Kent.
He was speaking out after the Local Government Association attacked the move to make the “Local Authority Publicity Code” law.
Cllr Kent said: “The Conservatives now want a law banning all councils from campaigning against government policy. It will be HS2 which gets the national headlines, but this proposed law would stop Thurrock Council fighting against proposals to build a new Thames crossing here.
“If the law was in place six months ago the council would have been prevented from running its campaign to let people know of the proposals and, despite the fact this council unanimously objected to the plans, we would have been gagged – prevented from doing anything.
“Because this government seems to be scared of anybody who disagrees with it, whatever the policy, ministers are looking for ways of shutting people up. That’s not the way democracy works.
“Local councils are supposed to help and support local people, that’s our job. I cannot believe that Mr Pickles and his Tory colleagues are actually seriously considering doing this. It is simply wrong.
“We haven’t got an HS2 on the horizon, but Boris Johnson’s proposals for a Thames airport are still around and need fighting. Community groups can do so much, but local councillors are supposed to represent local people as well as being community leaders.
“How can this be done if the council is legally blocked from promoting its views about what’s best? How can this be done if the council is prevented – in law no less – from using the skills it has to promote what local people know is best for the local area.
“I don’t want to be accused of political mischief making, but I am really concerned that this is really a step too far on the road of silencing criticism.
“They’ll be looking to dictate what the media says next!”