The Riverporter regularly receive press releases from various organisations, which we read and decide if the information will interest our readers. Mostly they’re from local groups eager to inform us about what they are doing and several examples of that are in this edition. We have also received press releases from local authorities including Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC), until recently that is. We don’t usually print them verbatim because they can be long and repetitive and if we are unsure on a particular issue we ring up the HDC press office, or try to speak to the councillor quoted in the press release, for clarification. Often an answer is forthcoming so all is well, but sometimes this causes difficulties, as with the recent item about an improved scheme for the Market Traders (see Update on p2). The Riverporter also attends council meetings, the editor sitting at the press desk so that we can get the news quickly and speak directly to our politicians who run our town and keep our readers informed with the facts. Recently this scrutiny of councillors and the authorities has led to some unexpected consequences. Often our requests for information are totally ignored. More worrying is that reasonable requests for information has led to this email to the Editor.
Mr Souter I have been made aware of a number of incidents that have taken place in relation to certain District Councillors in St Ives. Whilst being a District Councillor does present a person as a public figure, there is a limit to what can reasonably be expected in terms of interaction with the public. Furthermore, I believe that you are not a resident of St Ives, and so I would not expect you to have any recourse to seek out the local councillors for the town. The manner of your engagement with them is prompting me to write to you to express my strong dissatisfaction with the manner in which you are frequently engaging and confronting certain councillors and I therefore request that you desist. Furthermore, your increasing contact with my officers asking a range of questions which could be answered by viewing the councils website and social media feeds is consuming too much of our time with little practical benefit for council tax payers in the district. Should you persist in this I will have little choice but to categorise your behaviour as vexatious and consider withdrawing access to certain services. As you may gather from the content of this message, I am asking you respectfully to modify your behaviour towards the District Council, its councillors and staff. Should you decline this request, then I will have no hesitation in considering further action. Yours faithfully Joanne Lancaster, Managing Director, HDC.
The Editor naturally replied, a rather lengthy one, the gist of which was that in the last 12 months, he had politely asked simple questions of three councillors, which hardly amounted to a number of ‘incidents’, and none of the information was available on the council website. It also said that Ms Lancaster’s comments were far from accurate, relied on hearsay from councillors and, in his opinion, were designed to intimidate and curtail his work as a journalist, his rights as a registered voter (he was resident in St Ives at the time) and said that the email had upset his wife, who was worried the bins would not get emptied. The Riverporter will let our readers decide if this is an attempt to stop us bringing you real news and whether or not the Council’s senior officer should be issuing threats to protect councillors from the most basic scrutiny.