Hucknall councillor accuses council communications team of only promoting Ashfield Independents

A Hucknall Labour councillor has accused the Ashfield District Council’s communications team of bias towards the ruling Ashfield Independents.

Monday, 10th May 2021, 5:07 pm

Coun Lauren Mitchell who represents Hucknall South, was sent details of Freedom of Information (FOI) request obtained by a Hucknall resident.

The request, submitted on March 17, asked that, in the past 12 months, on council communications, such as, but not limited to, information brochures, magazines and leaflets, how many times had Ashfield Independent councillors been featured in articles and photographs and how many times had Labour or Conservative councillors been featured?

The results revealed that on Ashfield matters, between summer 2020 and March 2021, there were 157 articles published by the council’s communications team, of which 106 featured Ashfield Independents councillors, but not a single Labour or Conservative councillor.

Coun Lauren Mitchell says the findings of the FOI request confirmed what she and others had been saying for some time

Coun Mitchell also requested information on social media posts from the council over the past 180 days.

On Facebook, the council produced 289 posts, 95 of which featured Ashfield Independents, while none featured any Labour or Conservative councillors.

On Twitter, over the same time period, the FOI request reveals there were 530 posts from the council, 90 of which featured Ashfield Independents councilliors but again, none featured any Labour or Conservative councillors.

Additionally, Coun Mitchell also highlighted the council’s 2021 flyer announcing the council tax freeze, which featured just one councillor, who was from the Ashfield Independents.

Coun Mitchell said: “In my opinion, this has been going on since the Independents created a communications position in the cabinet and particularly since they hired political assistants.

"I wasn't surprised when I saw the results of the FOI, just felt validated that what we'd been saying was factually correct.

"We have raised this concern with the council’s communications team a few times and they say it’s because the Ashfield Independents are in control of the council.

"In the past, they’ve also named Ashfield Independent Lee Waters as Hucknall South councillor on more than one occasion.

"Obviously, myself and (Labour colleague) Keir Morrison are the councillors for Hucknall South.

“When we raised this with the communications team, they said it was an accident.

“I’ve also tried to raise this issue with the Ashfield Independents themselves but there’s no talking to them.

"They are a vicious bunch of people who are so completely unapproachable and in the past they’ve just said its because the other parties do nothing – which is rubbish.”

Carol Cooper-Smith, Ashfield District Council chief executive, said: "The council's communications channels are dedicated to informing residents about community news, campaigns, project updates and much more.

"The members featured on the council's communications channels are from the lead party.

"This would be the same whichever party was leading the council and has been with previous administrations.

"The communications team will use relevant cabinet members wherever possible.

"If they are not available, support cabinet members or ward councillors are featured instead.

"In short, the council's communications team is simply doing its job as a voice of the local authority."

Coun Jason Zadrozny, leader of the Ashfield Independents and the council leader, commented: “It is standard practice for any local government communications team to promote the work of the administration that runs the council.

"This is the case in Labour-run Nottingham City and it was also the case when Labour ran Ashfield District Council.

“The Labour Party has been reduced to two passive councillors.

"If they actually contributed anything of any consequence to how this council is run, then I am certain the communications department would look at it.

"The reality is, they don’t contribute anything positive to our council.

"The real story here is that our communications team is doing its job, which it has done magnificently during successive lockdowns.

"Criticism from the Labour Party is an insult to their professionalism – it’s no wonder Labour’s vote collapsed in Ashfield last week.”