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Derbyshire County Council employees 'silenced' by no media rule

Sunday, November 14th, 2021 7:38pm

By Christina Massey, Local Democracy Reporter @_ChrisMassey

Derbyshire County Council offices in Matlock. Image credit: Christina Massey.

A union chief is worried thousands of workers feel 'silenced' after it is revealed Derbyshire County Council forbids them to speak to the media.

Jon Smith, North Derbyshire officer for GMB union, voiced his concerns after it emerged the authority, which employs more than 30,000 people throughout Derbyshire, has banned direct communication with the press.

Mr Smith said: “It’s my worry that people do feel silenced and that they can’t speak freely.”

The authority’s Code of Conduct for Employees states: “Any enquiries from the media should be referred to Communications.

“You should not speak to the media on the council’s behalf unless you have prior approval.”

The document then directs employees to the council’s official Disciplinary Procedure, which lists failure to adhere to the Code of Conduct as an example of misconduct that could be subject to disciplinary action.

Many people employed by Derbyshire County Council include key workers such as care home staff and teachers.

“These are the people we were stood outside clapping for,” Mr Smith continued.

“All these public sector people, they kept life normal throughout lockdown and they’re the ones who we encourage to be in the GMB union to have that voice, to be able speak freely.”

He added that he thought people from all sectors were less likely to ‘speak up’ nowadays for fear of the consequences.

“People used to feel more comfortable about speaking up and saying what’s right, but people have been stepped on that much and trodden down that there is that fear now,” he said.

A spokesman for Derbyshire County Council said: “Employees are made aware that it is our policy that all media queries are directed to the communications team. 

“In common with most other employers, if employees want to talk to the media then they should run this past their line manager and the communications team.” 

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