“Free Speech, Free Press, Free Country”
A Letter to the Editor from recently re-instated Scarborough Borough Councillor Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff, who writes in defence of freedom of expression and a free press and calls upon all right-thinking Councillors to support the abolition of SBC’s unlawful application of so-called ‘black-lists’.
To the editor:
The North Yorks Enquirer has published extensively on the automatic use by Scarborough Borough Council of the “vexatious” label against contributors to your website.
I deliberately choose to submit work to the North Yorks Enquirer as I believe in freedom of speech. As with any publication, there have been articles that I fundamentally disagreed with or thought inappropriate. For the record, I do not have an ongoing dialogue with anyone connected to the North Yorks Enquirer, this is an issue of principle not personality. That said, it is not for me or Scarborough Borough Council to shutdown debate in our Borough.
There is a worrying trend across the country, where local campaigners are being labelled as “vexatious” by public bodies. In most cases the only nuisance or distress they are causing is by pointing out the failures of those in highly paid public positions. It is these subjects of legitimate scrutiny that use this label to close down debate on their activities.
Sadly, the same is true at Scarborough Borough Council. Indeed, the Council has defended this policy many times.
Councils including SBC often cite the Information Commissioners Office as upholding these decisions.
However, those who take an interest in this area of law know that appealing to ICO is a futile exercise.
Your readers may be interested to know that while the Directors of the Council are telling Councillors that the people who contribute to North Yorks Enquirer are causing nuisance and distress, behind closed doors they are its most avid readers. If you want a response from Mr Dillon or Mrs Dixon, just wait for a North Yorks Enquirer article.
On Monday, within an hour of an embarrassing article on North Yorks Enquirer, Finance Director Nick Edwards sent out an inexplicable email to the widest possible audience about my attending the Council meeting. This was even more strange as I had not given permission or agreed to this being done. However, it is clear that Directors overreacted because of the article by Nigel Ward.
Scarborough Borough Councillors were recently informed by Mrs Dixon of an update to the list of individuals classified as ‘Unreasonable Complainants’. In my view there are individuals on this list who, however challenging, irritating or offensive to SBC, should not have their rights restricted in this manner.
I am calling on all like-minded Councillors to work with me to have contributors to the North Yorks Enquirer removed from the “Unreasonable Complainants” list. As some might say, that policy is unreasonable.
Cllr. Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff
Hertford Ward Representative