Cripes! Tony Flaig, keeper of Margate's premier blog, has written to every KCC councillor following a shocking lack of response from Tory leader Ruddy-Faced Man to his complaint about a KCC contractor's ham-fisted attempt to shut him up!
Tony, aka Sausage Man, recently called a halt to his Bignews Margate blog in protest at the resounding silence from R-FM concerning a legally threatening letter from Sir Bob Geldoff's Kent TV. So far our lovely county council has spent around £2m of our money on Kent TV, and our Tone, quite rightly in my opinion, feels he has a democratic right to criticise the channel's output. But apparently not according to Ten Alps, the Bob-backed company which makes it.
Anyway, here's the text of Tony's council-wide email:
I am a local blogger, I write about local issues predominantly concerning Kent and generally more specifically Thanet.
I frequently write about policy issues concerning Kent Council. Naturally Kent council's high profile project Kent TV is one of those issues I considered worth referring to, since broadcast media would appear to many people a departure from the normal services taxpayers expect from their local authority.
At the end of June last year, I received a letter from a Kent County council contractor taking exception to comments I had made about Kent TV, the first line of their letter being 'I am responding to the comments posted on your blog regarding Kent TV'. This letter appeared to carry an implied threat that should I make further comments, they might well sue me.
At the time, I contacted the company concerned, asking the author of the letter whether there were any statements etc. that they wished me to withdraw, and at no point was I asked withdraw any statements.
Also at around the same time I contacted both Paul Carter, and then Peter Gilroy (KCC's £230,000 a year chief executive - Ed.) concerning this matter. Both subsequently wrote to me, apparently both supporting the contractor's rights, but neither appeared to acknowledge my right to express a valid opinion on the wisdom of a public authority wasting taxpayers' money on a questionable enterprise.
At no time do I feel that I have criticised the professionalism or competence of any contractor, although I have certainly questioned the output of Kent TV and its purpose.
I would like Kent Council to make a clear statement to the effect that Kent residents are entitled to make reasonable comments as they see fit about political issues in line with those rights guaranteed under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. If Kent Council don't make a clear commitment to residents' rights to free speech, then what's next? Contractors to other departments sending out letters, when say a resident complains about Kent Highways? Maybe suppliers of cones, tarmac or even advertising might send letters offering legal action?
I have currently suspended posts to my blog site, until such time as Paul Carter responds to the email I sent him on the 13th of January 2009. All I want is a clear statement from KCC making it clear they support free speech even if its critical.
Regards Tony Flaig