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A councillor has said Lichfield Live “needs to be stopped” during a meeting of Lichfield District Council.
Cllr Sonia Wilcox made her comments in a debate about Cllr Bernard Brown ahead of a discussion around extending a rule to prevent him from being disqualified.
His position was due to be debated after it emerged he had been unable to attend any meetings.
A Lichfield District Council report to the session last night (14th July) said he was “not able to use IT equipment”.
But after his resignation emerged at the meeting, Cllr Sonia Wilcox criticised independent publisher Lichfield Live after the coverage of the council’s own report. The Conservative member said:
“I hadn’t been on the council for very long and I stood up in the chamber and spoke about Lichfield Live and how they attack councillors and their families.
“I do feel desperately sorry for Cllr Brown. I’ve been reading on my phone all the things that have been said about him on Lichfield Live.
“Part of me thinks some of the things do come from within.
“I have already said before that Lichfield Live is really damning on this council and I feel it really needs to be stopped.”Cllr Sonia Wilcox, Lichfield District Council
Cllr Wilcox’s Conservative colleague, Cllr Colin Greatorex, said comments made by individuals online were the issue rather than specific publishers.
“It is wrong to cite Lichfield Live as the problem here.
“We have a number of people on social media in a lot of different guises who are not ideal members of our society. It is wrong to criticise a publication such as Lichfield Live – it’s more the individuals.”Cllr Colin Greatorex, Lichfield District Council
Independent member, Cllr Joanne Grange, said councillors needed to expect their actions to be scrutinised.
“When you put yourself up for election it is right that you are subject to a level of scrutiny.
“Where that scrutiny falls over into offence then it is perfectly possible to block people and not just read it.
“There are a number of things out there that are said about people – we can’t expect people not to look at us and challenge us on what we are doing and how we are doing it.
“That is what we are here for we have to expect that to a certain degree.
“Picking out any part of the media and disagreeing with what it says takes us down the route of not presenting ourself as open and transparent to scrutiny.
“I think it’s dangerous if we start down that route.”Cllr Joanne Grange, Lichfield District Council
We fully reject Cllr Wilcox’s accusations and find her calls for independent media coverage to be “stopped” somewhat ironic given they were made at a meeting where a new engagement strategy focusing on transparency was due to be discussed.
In light of the baseless points made regarding Lichfield Live, we have also asked Lichfield District Council to formally investigate her comments in relation to the local authority’s code of conduct.
Our articles relating to Cllr Brown were based on Lichfield District Council’s own documentation. The report from a cabinet member to the meeting outlined his IT issues, while further follow-up articles were based on formal communications with the local authority regarding whether or not training had been offered to overcome them.
None of this has come from “sources within” – they have come through direct channels which Lichfield District Council will have a record of had Cllr Wilcox carried out even the most basic of checks.
A search through our archives shows that Cllr Wilcox has rarely been mentioned in articles outside of collated results of elections, so it isn’t clear where the personal attacks on her and her family that she also mentioned in the meeting have been made.
We have reported extensively on Cllr Wilcox’s husband during his time as leader of the council – this is not to be unexpected given the seniority of that role, particularly as the period covered things such as the changing shape of council funding and the related issues that caused, as well as the collapse of the Friarsgate scheme.
To not cover the actions and views of a council’s leader would be a bizarre decision by any local news publication.
It appears from the meeting that some other members have confused our articles with comments which readers leave or reply with on social media. Suggesting the silencing of an independent publisher which covers a range of other topics beyond local politics is not the solution, a point Cllr Greatorex correctly made in response to Cllr Wilcox’s words.
We do remove comments on our site where they have crossed a line and would encourage people to let us know if they spot anything which may slip through the net so we can take appropriate action where necessary.
For the past 12 years Lichfield Live has continued to independently shine a light on the actions – good and bad – of local councils, particularly in more recent times when other publications have disappeared from sight or have reduced coverage. We do not apologise for that in any way shape or form and will continue to do so with pride on behalf of residents across Lichfield and Burntwood.