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Council leader condemns Brexit leak

Documents outlining possible risks sent to the press

Local Democracy Reporter Alex Seabrook

THE leader of West Berkshire Council has condemned the anonymous person who leaked confidential documents warning of the risks of a no-deal Brexit to the press.

Those documents warned of closed schools, fuel shortages, care homes shut down and waste left uncollected. 

At an executive meeting on Thursday, Lynne Doherty (Con, Newbury Speen), said: “I would like to invite the leaders of the opposition to join me in condemning any member or officer that breaches their code of conduct and the Nolan principles for public life.” 

The seven Nolan principles for public life, which the council leader mentioned, act as a code of conduct for councillors. Two of these are openness and honesty. 

The openness principle states: “Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public, unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.” 

Before the documents were leaked, enquiries to the council’s press office about the risks of a no-deal Brexit were unanswered, and Freedom of Information requests were also refused. 

Councillors were briefed on the risks and were told by the council’s chief executive Nick Carter that the briefing was not confidential. 

The slides were later sent to councillors stating that the confidential documents could not be shared with the public. 

Mrs Doherty was answering a public question from the treasurer of the Newbury Constituency Labour Party Dr Julie Wintrup, at a meeting of the executive on October 17. 

Dr Wintrup asked: “When and in what detail will the assessment of the effects of a no-deal Brexit be shared with local residents and businesses, headlines of which were apparently leaked from a confidential council briefing?” 

Mrs Doherty said: “The leaked documents did not include an assessment of the effects of a no-deal Brexit, but rather an assessment of the potential risks, with details of what mitigation was being put in place.

“Local residents and businesses concerned about the impact are being directed to the website and to the Berkshire growth hub respectively, for advice and guidance.

“The focus of this council’s activities is about making sure we can continue to provide our statutory services. And the briefing for elected members was to update them on our latest planning.”

Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “My members have a distinct recollection of the chief executive saying the briefing was not confidential. We accept the document was considered confidential, but at the beginning of that meeting we were told the briefing was not confidential. It’s a point of important accuracy.”

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  • brunin the bear

    25/10/2019 - 09:01