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West Berkshire Council defiant over ReadiBus 'gagging clause'

West Berkshire Council remains defiant over what critics claim is a “gagging clause” in its agreement with service providers.

The Newbury Weekly News revealed how the local authority was withholding full funds from the ReadiBus charity after trustees declined to sign what they see as a censorship agreement as a precondition for their release.

WBC (48630967)
WBC (48630967)

At a meeting of the council executive committee on Thursday, June 10, Newbury town councillor Sarah Slack said the offending paragraphs amounted to a “gagging clause” and asked if the wording would be amended.

She pointed out that a Government template for service level agreements did not include such a clause.

The contract states: “The charity shall not, and shall take reasonable steps to ensure that staff shall not, make any press announcement or publicise the agreement or any part of the agreement in any way, except with the prior written consent of the council.”

It goes on to assert that such consent “will not be unreasonably withheld”.

Trustees at ReadiBus, which provides vital transport for those with restricted mobility, have asked for the clause to be made reciprocal or removed.

Transport portfolio holder Richard Somner (Con, Tilehurst South and Holybrook) repeated the council’s stance that this did not amount to a gagging clause and that many other service providers had signed it.

He said: “The Government template is just that – a template that organisations can adapt to their own needs. [The clause] is to ensure confidentiality between the council and its service providers.”

Ms Slack then retorted: “It sounds like a gagging clause to me. Will the council be amending it?”

Mr Somner replied that the council refused to amend the wording.

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