Purdah and “good news” stories

4 Mar

Many of you will be wondering why there is such a plethora of council “good news” stories breaking out all over the press in the UK these days.  The reason is that there are many council elections coming up in May and also European Parliament elections. For our council this happens in 2015 but, naturally, all councils help their political friends in need – and some of them are in very much need at the moment.  The more good news that comes out, the more their candidates are seen kissing babies, etc the better they feel that their friends in other places will fare and also they know that their friends will, in their turn, help them in their time of need.  This is ALL councils and ALL parties.

So beware good news stories this month:  many of them have an ulterior motive.

Part of the Wikipedia entry HERE is an extract from the Local Government Act 1980 which explains what can and cannot happen during purdah:

Elections, referendums and petitions
41. The period between the notice of an election and the election itself should preclude proactive publicity in all its forms of candidates and other politicians involved directly in the election. Publicity should not deal with controversial issues or report views, proposals or recommendations in such a way that identifies them with individual members or groups of members. However, it is acceptable for the authority to respond in appropriate circumstances to events and legitimate service enquiries provided that their answers are factual and not party political. Members holding key political or civic positions should be able to comment in an emergency or where there is a genuine need for a member level response to an important event outside the authority’s control. Proactive events arranged in this period should not involve members likely to be standing for election.
42. The Local Authorities (Referendums) (Petitions and Directions) (England) Regulations 2000 [REPEALED] (which apply under the Local Government Act 2000 to county councils, district councils and London borough councils) prohibit an authority from incurring any expenditure to
  • Publish material which appears designed to influence local people in deciding whether or not to sign a petition requesting a referendum on proposals for an elected mayor;
  • Assist anyone else in publishing such material; or
  • Influence or assist others to influence local people in deciding whether or not to sign a petition.
Publicity in these circumstances should, therefore, be restricted to the publication of factual details which are presented fairly about the petition proposition and to explaining the council’s existing arrangements. Local authorities should not mount publicity campaigns whose primary purpose is to persuade the public to hold a particular view in relation to petitions generally or on a specific proposal.

Purdah in local government ends at the annual meeting of the council in the new municipal year (usually the first full council meeting after the election) when the appointment of a new executive by the leader occurs

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