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Broads Authority gags it members

PUBLISHED: 07:33 09 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:28 06 July 2010

A decision which could prevent some members of the Broads Authority from speaking directly to the media is "taking spin to a ridiculous degree", according to a Norfolk MP.

A decision which could prevent some members of the Broads Authority from speaking directly to the media is “taking spin to a ridiculous degree”, according to a Norfolk MP.

Members of the authority met yesterday in Norwich where they agreed a new protocol which sets out how they should behave.

A paragraph in the document says: “The chair of the authority and chief executive should normally speak on behalf of the authority, though from time to time other committee chairs or lead members might be asked by the authority to speak to media on some specific issues.”

It also says members should discuss all media contacts with them and a communications manager, who is due to be appointed, along with any correspondence for publication.

Although there was a suggestion to have that paragraph removed, the protocol was eventually voted through - with authority chief executive John Packman, who compiled the report, stating this was how things had been done for the last 20 years, only now it was in writing.

Last night, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the move sent out the “wrong message”.

“It's just extraordinary and is taking spin to a ridiculous degree,” he said.

“I can understand the suggestion of guidance and training when dealing with the media, that's perfectly legitimate. But each member of the authority needs to be accountable - and this is all in the context of what I consider to be a serious lack of accountability at the Broads Authority, which is a wider concern I have.

“To ensure that accountability, all members ought to be able to speak to the media.

“To restrict it like this may mean we never get to hear of dissent or differences of opinion within the authority and that's wrong.”

Mr Packman said it was not about restricting members but making sure the information they put out to the wider public was correct.

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