A decision by the Wales Audit Office in the last few days should send shivers down the spines of senior council staff thinking of using taxpayer’s money to silence bloggers.
The audit office have ruled that Carmarthenshire County Council acted illegally by indemnifying its chief executive, Mark James, in a libel action involving local blogger,Jacqui Thompson.And it ends:
The consequences of this ruling are two-fold. It must question whether the council should continue to provide an indemnity to Mr James in the current appeal.
It also sends a much wider warning to senior council officials – that they should think more than twice before using public money to pursue people who are critical of them. I don’t know the rights and wrongs of the issues in her blogs, but I do think a public authority should not use public money to crush them. This is a victory for those who support free speech and unfettered debate on matters of public interest.I mention Rutland because earlier this year Rutland County Council voted to indemnify its chief executive to take legal action against three of its own members.
You can be prosecuted for saying disobliging things about Rutland County Council, so let me just say that it should abandon this legal action at once. It was clear from the outset to anyone with any sense that it was a doomed idea.
Later. I have just been told that on Monday 7 October BBC East Midlands will be devoting its Inside Out programme to the goings on at Rutland County Council. One to watch on the iPlayer if you do not have the food fortune to live in this part of the world.