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Chairman's Column - 16 March 2021

Published on Tuesday, 16th March 2021

Chairman of the council Cllr Mark Heard

What is Purdah or the Pre-Election Period?

“I’m sorry to say that until the local elections are over on 6th May, I must suspend this column because when an election is called, there are rules which dictate what can be published or promoted by the Council.

“These rules are in place from 19th March until after the elections because we are entering a period known as ‘Purdah’ or ‘The Pre-election period’.

“This is the time between the announcement of an election, and Election Day itself and the Council as an organisation, must not publish any material which appears to give support to any particular individual, group or party involved directly in the election.

“However, they can respond to events and legitimate service enquiries provided the answers are factual and not party political and it is perfectly right and proper that the Council responds.  An example might be a media story which is factually incorrect or a fake news story, claiming that all Councillors allowances might double! - If this is not true, (and it isn’t!!) a response to correct the inaccuracy such as, ‘It is completely untrue that Councillors allowances are to be increased’, can be sent.

“Ultimately, you must always be guided by the principle of fairness and it is crucial that any decision taken, could be seen as fair and reasonable to the public and those standing for office.

“The Council must not promote or produce publicity on politically controversial matters or make references to individual politicians or groups in press releases, they can’t arrange proactive media or events involving candidates, or issue photographs which include candidates, unless they have verified that they will not be used for campaigning purposes.

“Obviously, the Council can continue to discharge normal council business - including determining planning applications, even if they are controversial and the Council can continue to publish factual information.

“Maldon District with its population of around 65,000 residents (2018 Data) includes (naturally) Maldon, Burnham-on-Crouch, Southminster and many other rural villages and the District itself is divided up into areas called ‘Wards’. These have between 2800 and 3400 people in each ward. Others, (Maldon East, Tillingham and Tollesbury have one Councillor representing between 1600 and 1900 residents each. In total, MDC has 31 District Councillor places but the next election for all of these places will be in 2023.

“This country has a long democratic history on voting reform when in our earliest days only the privileged were allowed to do so.  The Women’s Vote is a case in point as people suffered and died in that struggle which is well documented.  Remember there are places in the world today where such a democratic duty is conspicuous by its absence, so voting is a duty we can all enjoy and have our say in matters. Until next time take care, and I hope to be back in May.”

Councillor Mark S Heard

Chairman of Maldon District Council