Denying something you have not been accused of is mind-bending public relations technique. The only reason I can see for Suffolk County Council to use it in the matter of Evening Star reporter Paul Geater was to confuse the issue.
To recap, Geater is the local government reporter on the Star who on Monday was told by a SCC press officer that all his questions would be met with “no comment”. The paper then splashed the story on it’s front page.
For a journalist to be sent to Coventry by a council press office is a serious matter which makes it much harder to keep the readers informed. By its nature, the relationship is sometimes difficult, but it is a cornerstone of democracy.
I read the original story and noted that they had not tried to ban Geater from meeting or receiving council papers. Sensible, on the part of the council, because that would have been illegal. We all have a statutory right to enter Endeavour House and attend meetings.
But in response to the ensuing storm, the council denies that Geater had been banned from entering Endeavour House. As Geater said, that had not been a part of his complaint.
But, in a letter to the Evening Star, council leader Jeremy Pembroke said:
It has never been suggested that Mr Geater is banned from Endeavour House or, for that matter, any other Council building.
The communications team will deal with enquiries from Mr Geater as appropriate, as they have always done.
This was not some mistake, denying the unsaid, because the same approach was used by the council’s head of communications, Simon Higgins, who also said there was no ban on entering Endeavour House. He had been asked ten questions by the Star, one of which asked if the chief executive, Andrea Hill, knew of the ban (on answering questions) before it was made. His reply: “No because there is no ban.”
It is little more than a month ago that the council scored another spectacular PR own goal by removing a petition for the chief executive, Andrea Hill, to have her pay cut from it’s web site.
Behaviour inside Endeavour House is daily looking more and more dysfunctional. And that leads to questions about the rationality of decision making.