Luton councillor denies leaked document is a gag order

Luton Town Hall
Luton Town Hall

A Luton councillor who wrote a directive which told Labour group members not to disagree in public has denied that it amounted to a gag order.

On Friday a document was produced at a Luton Labour meeting which said that members could only disagree “within the confines of internal meetings.”

The document tells councillors that they should only “convey a positive message about the Labour council both in the public and in the media” and that members should “do nothing to publicly or in the media show dissent, embarrass or damage the council.”

The document includes a note on dealing with the press, stating that deadlines are “not our problem and such pressures must be resisted.”

The document was leaked, which its author Cllr Paul Castleman said was “disappointing.”

Cllr Castleman, the group’s chief whip, told Herald & Post: “It was an unwritten rule and it was unfortunate that no-one spoke out at the time (before leaking the document).

“It was never drafted as a gag order, it was for those seeking guidance on keeping to agreed policies on certain issues.

“On some occasions (members) can get caught out.

“It’s not saying members can never speak to the press– that would be ridiculous.”


> Editor’s note: Local politics matter as never before. Your elected councillor (average expenses £7,500 pa) makes decisions on schools, social care, roads and whether to hold a pop concert!

But now you won’t be able to know if the Labour councillors disagree behind the scenes, if a scheme was steamrollered by a few or even given a proper debate because your councillor can’t tell you! Or us.

So next time we ask a councillor for a statement which they say they can’t give us, we’ll let you know, and just how much in ratepayers expenses said councillor has claimed recently.