I have just received an interesting e-mail from the City Council. I attach a copy of the e-mail and my response to it below.
The Council has called a meeting during a period known as ‘purdah’. This period is designed to ensure that controlling parties do not make statements during an election period which could influence voting intentions. Crucially it applies only to public sector organisations and cannot therefore apply to councillors, political parties and campaigners.
Interestingly, the e-mail only went out to opposition councillors. Is this because the statement was made at the behest of the controlling Labour Group? Or is it just that the Council know that Labour councillors will not be showing up anyway?! Remember not one of the 6 Labour councillors for our area turned up last Friday to hear the views of the 150 local people who turned up to express their views and make their opinions manifest.
I believe that this is an attack on the free speech and the rights of local campaigners and people. I urge everyone who is concerned about the future of green spaces in the Woolton/Allerton/Childwall/Speke area to turn up and make sure that your voice is heard by the independent review committee.
This is NOT a correct interpretation of Purdah. The council should NOT have arranged a meeting within the Purdah period. That it has done so is regrettable but it is the Council’s fault. Purdah does NOT apply to political Parties and campaigners. Indeed it would make a mockery of elections if it did. Purdah applies to the work of public bodies which clearly only means the Council in this case.
Local councillors and campaigners have as much right to be present and make comments and ask questions as anyone else. I am not attending this event myself but I know that local members of the Liberal Democrats will be there and making their opinions felt as I did at the recent meeting which covered my Ward. Perhaps the Labour party do not understand the meaning of Purdah. Not one of the 6 Labour Councillors for the area which includes my ward bothered to turn up. Perhaps that is why no Labour Councillors have been told not to attend through the medium of your e-mail!?
I would recommend that anyone wishing to hear the views of the people of the Woolton, Speke and Childwall areas should attend to inform them of what their future constituents want.
I am very concerned that the Council has misinformed the Chair of the Review about the meaning of purdah and am copying this to him as well as other campaigners.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats
The original e-mail
To: “Kemp, Richard” <Richard.Kemp@liverpool.gov.uk>; “Coyne, John” <John.Coyne@liverpool.gov.uk>; “Coyne, John” <email@example.com>; “Mace, Barbara” <Barbara.Mace@liverpool.gov.uk>; “Crone, Thomas – Councillor” <Thomas.Crone@liverpool.gov.uk>; “Jennings, Sarah” <Sarah.Jennings@liverpool.gov.uk>; “Radford, Steve – External” <firstname.lastname@example.org>; “Brown, Lawrence – Councillor” <Lawrence.Brown@si.liverpool.gov.uk>; “Williams, Hazel – Councillor” <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, 27 March 2015, 14:58
Subject: Purdah period
As you may be aware there is a scheduled public meeting this Saturday for the wards of Childwall, Belle Vale, and Woolton as part of the Green and Open Spaces Review. However, I need to bring to your attention that the notification of elections today means that the final scheduled public meeting for the Green and Open Space Review in Woolton on Saturday 28th March has been caught by the purdah period and accordingly elected members, political agents, prospective candidates and others involved in the elections process are asked not to attend. The Chair will advise those present of the purdah requirements and why elected members are not present.
The purpose of the meeting is only as an information gathering exercise and an opportunity for the Chair and members of the Board to listen and record the views, concerns and suggestions of local residents.
Ward members who wish to raise issues about green and open spaces within their wards are asked to do this outside of the public meeting and to contact Simon directly through either the website http://www.liverpool.gov.uk/greenandopenspaces or to email Simon c/o firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any queries please ring me.