Just hours after VentnorBlog ran the story on Cllr Geoff Lumley having proposed a motion that the Isle of Wight Council Communications department £1,000,000 budget should be cut by £400,000 to give Island primary school children free meals at school, he’s heard that it has been removed by council official from the agenda of the upcoming Full Council meeting.
We went online to look at the Agenda and found that it’s been swapped for another version, removing all the previous traces of the item – as if it never existed.
This follows the day after The Leader, Cllr David Pugh, blocked Cllr Lumley from asking a question at the Cabinet meeting about the changes to refuse collection on the Island stating, “It’s the chairman’s prerogative to not take questions,” after Cllr Lumey has asked a question about Westminster House that had clearly annoyed some members of the Cabinet.
This afternoon, council officers contacted Cllr Lumley to tell him they wouldn’t allow it on the agenda in the pre-election period because there’s a mention of the free school meals pilots taking place around the country in the Labour party manifesto, labelling it “an election issue.”
“I dispute that absolutely, because it (the Labour manifesto) doesn’t say that they’re going to do anything as a result of those pilots – it just mentions the pilot. It’s not a manifesto commitment – it just mentions it as a bit of narrative in the main document,” Cllr Lumley told VentnorBlog.
“I asked them to reconsider, but they haven’t even bothered to come back to me.”
He told VB, “It was censorship last night from the political leadership and today there’s censorship by the senior managers of the Isle of Wight council.”
Cllr Lumley said he put the question in on Monday and that it had been accepted onto the events agenda, “Why has it been removed now?”
“They don’t have my agreement to this withdrawal and I will continue to attempt to raise it next week.”
Cllr Lumley called VB after he had received a call from a reporter at the County Press who had apparently been tipped off about the story from within the Isle of Wight council.
Update: Monday 19th April
We approached the communications team at the Isle of Wight Council for a statement following publication of this article. They got back to us with the following response.
IW Council chief executive, Steve Beynon said: “Members have been informed that a motion previously contained within the original agenda has been removed due to the subject matter appearing within a political party manifesto. This would potentially have constituted a breach of the law relating to council publicity during pre-election periods.
“Another motion submitted by a member of another political party had previously been discounted from the agenda for similar reasons.
“The council has a legal duty to ensure that, particularly during election periods, it does not engage in activity which supports, or could be deemed to support, a political party.”