Guidance banning parish councillors speaking to the press is to be re-written, with communities secretary and Ongar MP Eric Pickles branding the move “a victory for common sense”.
The guidelines, published to 8,500 councils in December by parish council trade body the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), suggested parish councillors should not speak to journalists without approval of the council and written permission from the clerk.
Mr Pickles called the guidelines ‘Stalinist’, saying freedom of speech was a ‘key part of local democracy’.
However, speaking to the Guardian on today, Mr Pickles said NALC officials, having spoken to his government department, had now agreed to re-write the guidance.
He said: “It’s a victory for common sense.
“What you need from a councillor is someone that communicates with the electorate and the best way to do that is through the press.”
Loughton Town Council and Epping Town Council are both members of NALC.
Epping town clerk Alan Shaw said: “There is an important reason why parish councillors can’t give quotes in the same way as district or county councillors can.
“The parish constitution requires all decisions to be collective so there is no scope for the leader and cabinet system which allows portfolio or cabinet members to speak on behalf of the council.”
A spokesman for the NALC said it was currently looking at a way of changing the guidelines.