Outrage as full Sheffield Council webcast removed 'for purdah'

Councillors have called a decision to remove a full council webcast "ridiculous" as a row over pre election rules continues.

Saturday, 18th April 2020, 1:15 pm

Sheffield Council put a live broadcast of the full council meeting - where elected members discussed important local issues - on their website last week.

It remained on the site until Monday afternoon when it disappeared.

When questioned about this a council press officer said it was not on the site because of purdah - which puts restrictions on information in the time between an election being called and results being announced.

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Green Party councillor Douglas Johnson.

Councillor Douglas Johnson, leader of the Green Party, said: "It’s completely ridiculous to say they have removed it because of purdah when there is explicit stuff in the agenda still on the website that criticise other parties and shout about Labour - you couldn’t get more blatant.

"As an elected councillor we weren’t even told the webcast had been removed from the website, which if it was really a purdah issue you would expect to be informed.

"It makes it a complete charade."

Sheffield Green Party campaigned for council meetings to be webcast - which was introduced by the council this year.

Rows over purdah broke out during full council last week and Lord Mayor Tony Downing tried to control political comments throughout.

While Liberal Democrat councillors were presenting a motion on mental health, councillor Steve Ayris was interrupted and told to refrain from making political statements.

The interruption sparked outrage by some and Coun Ayris was eventually allowed to continue. But throughout the rest of the meeting speakers were shut down by various parties using purdah as an excuse.

Coun Penny Baker, leader of the Liberal Democrats, told the chamber: "I'm sad such an important issue has been met with such stupidity."

Coun Johnson added: "The whole point of campaigning for webcast was to encourage transparency. If councils were going to behave badly like they did at the last full council meeting the public should be able to see it. They shouldn’t remove it because they’re embarrassed."

The council said the webcast would be put back on the website on Friday 13, 2019 following the results of the general election.

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