Medway Council's investigation of Councillor Tristan Osbourne and Councillor Vince Maple has come to a swift close with a slapped wrist from Legal officer Perry Holmes and the issue of a Statement of retraction. According to an article in the Medway Messenger (19th March) the member of the Council who complained was none other than Councillor Jarrett - Deputy leader of the Conservative Group:
I held the view that they had acted improperly and I think the decision has borne that out.
In defence Councillor Maple said; We were clearly criticising the council in their ability to manage fraud.
Councillor Osborne stated; Councillor Jarrett should be concentrating on sorting outstanding Council tax, rather than chasing an opposition which is legitimately holding his financial mismanagement to account.
Well... I agree with Councillor Jarrett on this occasion. I know, pigs have just been flying around the Naval memorial on the Great lines but there it is.
The original post title was worded along the lines of Medway Council one of the most Fraudulent in the UK.
As the article unfolded it did, as Councillor Maple says, explain that it was the area and failure of the administration to deal with Council tax fraud and invasion. - Fair enough.
BUT Any first year Media studies student or even any commuter will tell you the thing most people take away from an article is the headline, often not getting past the first paragraph. I can say from leafing through the papers on the train in the morning that I read the headline/title then move on if it doesn't interest me but it may stick in my mind. What would I have taken away from the Labour articles?
Medway Council was fraudulent.
How many people, who are still reading at this point, thought that this was an article about George Osborne and Vince Cable?
If I had a title called Tracey Crouch; The MP and the Football coach. How many people would read it and jump to the wrong conclusion of a seedy affair rather than a biopic piece about how she balances being an MP and Coach to the Under 14's Meridian Girls football team?
The point they were making in their leaflets and blogpost is valid and it is up to the opposition to publish the facts and call the Conservative administration to account using factual and substantiated claims. However the wording of the original title and again the sentence that described the council as Fraudulent was not thought out properly. It sounds like aspersions of a different nature are being thrown around by Medway Labour, aspersions that are not true.
The blogosphere is watched as a media outlet and those who write have a responsibility to be as honest and straight forward as we can. As I stated before;
At best it was a poor choice of wording, at worst it was a deliberate term to plant seeds in the minds of people who wouldn't then read the whole article but blissfully walk away thinking the Council committed Fraud
There may be better things to spend Tax payers money on but Standards are Standards and if the Independent board upheld the complaint and felt that action was needed clearly Cllrs Maple and Osborne were in the wrong. I hope that this is the end of it though and lessons have been learnt.