Friday, 27 May 2011

Sainsburys ads won't undermine planning independence claims Council Leader

My colleague Jeremy Rowe has blogged about the decision by the Council to allow companies to advertise on the Council's website. Unfortunately, this includes allowing Sainsburys - a company seeking planning permission on various sites in Cornwall - to advertise on the planning pages. Jeremy has suggested that this is a clear conflict of interest.

Today all councillors received an email from the Leader seeking to justify this advertising:

"Concern over sale of advertising on council website – The decision to allow advertising on the website was agreed as part of the budget savings strategy approved by the full Council in December to help generate additional income for the authority. There is strict policy in place to control advertising which ensures that all adverts comply with relevant regulations and sets out services and products which are not permitted on the website. These include adverts from political organisations and manufacturers and distributors of tobacco or alcohol. Adverts are currently allowed on five pages – relating to health and social care, education and learning, planning, marriage and registration services and housing. We recognise the need to be open and transparent and assess all potential adverts to ensure they comply with the policy and consider the appropriateness of potential advertisers. With reference to the Sainsbury’s adverts, we have a very robust planning system in place to ensure that decisions are made on planning grounds, with all Members who sit on planning committees receiving extensive training. We do, therefore, not feel that displaying adverts from companies such as Sainsbury’s brings the objectivity of the Council’s planning processes into question."

Whilst all of this might be true and I have great faith in the robust independence of our planning committees, sadly the same is not the case with the Leader, who destroyed the Council's carefully argued objection to the incinerator at St Dennis (all done at a cost of well over £1 million) by writing to Eric Pickles to urge him to do the opposite of council policy and allow it to be built.


Stephen Richardson said...

While your final point is very apt, do you not feel just a tad hypocritical when you think of all those student fees pledges that were signed by members of your party? A bit like the pot calling the kettle black?

Alex Folkes said...

Personally I don't feel at all hypocritical as I believe those Lib Dem MPs who voted for the fee increases were wrong, and have said so (and am happy to say so again).