OPPOSITION councillors are advising the Executive members to be more visible in Blaenau Gwent’s dealings with the press.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Corporate Overview Committee on Friday, September 10 councillors looked at a report on how the communications strategy for April to the end of June worked
The council’s commercial and customer chief officer Bernadette Elias explained the workload included the Senedd and Police and Crime Commissioner elections back in May, which is extra.
She added that a campaign to boost the library community hub model was due to start soon.
Labour group leader Cllr Stephen Thomas said: “The corporate communications from officers has improved, but there appears to be no leadership from leading members in terms of our interaction with the local newspapers.”
Cllr Thomas said he “knew this to be true” as he spoken to journalists on the issue.
He pointed to the recent U-Turn by the council on introducing parking permits at Ebbw Vale Town Station and that no councillors from the Executive had appeared to “explain or indeed answer” for the issues.
Former Labour and council leader Cllr Hayden McCarthy said: ” I agree with Cllr Thomas – we’ve both been leaders.
“I don’t think when the leader should be facing the press all we get is a comment from a council spokesman.
“That leads to anonymous leadership and that can’t be good for the authority.”
Cllr Wayne Hodgins of the majority independent group that run the council, defended the group’s leaders, and pointed out that journalists can now sit in on live council meetings to watch them.
Cllr Hodgins: “We assume the press pick up on our news stories and have corporate communication that issue the relevant things,.
“There has been a lot of criticism in the past of members issuing statements themselves to the press and on social media.”
He wanted Cllr Thomas to retract his statement.
Cllr Thomas said: “I totally disagree, we ask the public to elect us we are there to answer for what we do and the decisions we make, fundamentally that means answering to the public and good place to do that is in the local press.”
During the first quarter of 2021/22 there were:
84,000 visitors to the council’s website
3,200 social media posts
15,000 people follow the council’s Facebook account.
31 press releases were sent out
54 articles were published
The report will now go to the Executive Team committee to discuss on September 22.