I refer to my note of 8th February which included, and was in response to, a letter from Michael Gove relating to the Coronation of King Charles III.
You will recall that I highlighted my discomfort about the relationship of the Coronation and Local Government Elections, both of which are scheduled in early May. I indicated that I would seek advice from our Monitoring Officer and communicate further once this was received. I have now received that advice;
“EDDC – In my view, aside from the resourcing issues, the restrictions make it impossible for EDDC to put on Coronation events in the lead up to the elections that in any way feature Members, this is the case regardless of whether Members are standing for re-election or not as they are bound by the publicity restrictions regardless of their intentions. As a note, Members remain Councillors until 4 days after the election date.”
“Towns and Parishes – In terms of more local events, I would suggest that EDDC Town and Parish Councils are in the same position, regardless of whether they return their members unopposed or if they go to an election. The preferable approach would be for community groups to organise events, it would be open to the Towns and Parishes to support those events financially and fairly on a politically neutral basis but they should avoid any promotion or organisation of the events.”
“Members – In terms of how members act, the FAQs on the link below are useful. Members are of course permitted to promote themselves during the pre-election period and to attend events. They could be involved in the organisation of community events on their own behalf but cannot use Council resources to do so. They can attend community events as a Councillor, the difficulty comes if the event has been organised by Parish/Town/District Council or if they’ve tweeted it from their Council provided email on a Council provided iPad etc.”
- Can Councillors issue their own press release or talk to the media?
Councillors are free to talk to the media and issue press releases, but must not use council resources to do so.
- Can councillors write letters ‘for publication’ to their local newspaper?
Yes, as long as they don’t use council resources (such as staff) to help them do it.
- Can councillors still tweet or blog?
Councillors can continue, but must not use council resources (council twitter accounts, email accounts or telephones etc.)
We are not currently aware of national or central guidance dealing with the relationship of pre-election period and Coronation events, but will monitor this situation. We are also seeking advice from the Association of Electoral Administrators.
The pre-election period finishes on the date of the election. It is likely most events will fall outside that period, on Sunday and Monday after the election. Therefore, potential concern relates primarily to prior organisation and promotion of such events, which would take place during the pre-election period.
The LGA short guide to the pre-election period can be found here https://www.local.gov.uk/our-support/guidance-and-resources/pre-election-period (click on the guide). There are also social media top tips here Pre-election period: social media | Local Government Association
Cllr Ian Thomas
Chair – East Devon District Council
Ward Member – Trinity, since 2009