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Town councillor faces investigation after accusing mayor of ‘censoring’ his personal views

PUBLISHED: 16:13 30 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:38 30 July 2020

Swaffham Town councillor Graham Edwards is accusing Mayor Jill Skinner and District Councillor Ian Sherwood of censoring his personal opinion. Pictures: Submitted

Swaffham Town councillor Graham Edwards is accusing Mayor Jill Skinner and District Councillor Ian Sherwood of censoring his personal opinion. Pictures: Submitted

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A town councillor is facing an investigation after he accused a district councillor and the town mayor of censoring his personal views.

Mayor of Swaffham Jill Skinner. Photo: Richard Bishop/Swaffham Town CouncilMayor of Swaffham Jill Skinner. Photo: Richard Bishop/Swaffham Town Council

Graham Edwards, a Swaffham town councillor, make the accusations over plans for the Green Britain Centre (GBC).

Swaffham Town Council (STC) is working with Breckland Council to look at new options for the GBC, which closed in 2018.

Mr Edwards wrote to the Lynn News after Breckland councillor Ian Sherwood said in an article that new plans for the visitor centre to be turned into a sports and leisure provision would be a “tremendous opportunity for Swaffham as a community”.

Mr Edwards disagreed with the comments and asked the news organisation to post his own opinion to counter those of Mr Sherwood.

STC became aware of the comments and stopped them from being published by Lynn News.

Breckland councillor and Conservative party agent, Ian Sherwood. Picture: Breckland CouncilBreckland councillor and Conservative party agent, Ian Sherwood. Picture: Breckland Council

Jill Skinner, Swaffham town mayor, later sent an email, which said: “I received an email from Ian Sherwood having taken a call from the press.

“After consultation with the town clerk and Judy [deputy mayor] I cancelled your contribution to the paper, please read our Standing Orders and Code of Conduct as this will explain.”

Mr Edwards then sent a further email, seen by this newspaper, which accused Mr Sherwood and Mrs Skinner of censoring his personal views.

He said: “There is no mention of my role as a councillor. Indeed the opposite is true, I have not even used my STC email address.

Graham Edwards at a virtual Swaffham Town Council Meeting. Photo: ZoomGraham Edwards at a virtual Swaffham Town Council Meeting. Photo: Zoom

“The establishment is trying, successfully it would seem, to silence any voice raised against the required agenda, which seems to be ‘Swaffham will have the GBC’.

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Mr Sherwood said: “Following the publication of the original article, I was contacted by the journalist the following week, who said he had been contacted by a STC councillor who was against the proposed GBC project.

“He put a number of points to me that had been raised by the STC councillor and I responded. Out of courtesy I contacted the STC mayor to inform her that I had been contacted.”

Swaffham Town Council also confirmed that Mr Sherwood did not ask for censorship of Mr Edwards.

A private council meeting took place on July 29 to discuss if Mr Edwards had breached the town council’s Code of Conduct.

A resolution was unanimously endorsed by councillors.

It read: “This council reports the said actions of councillor Graham Edwards to the monitoring officer at Breckland Council, that brings the council into disrepute as a clear breach of Code of Conduct and Swaffham Town Council policies.”

Mrs Skinner said: “I should say that I take no joy in bringing the resolution to the council.

“It is not about censorship, nor is it a witch hunt and nor is it about acting on the instruction of people outside of the council.

“It is good and proper governance and ensuring that the council operates in an efficient and effective manner for the benefit of the residents of our town, Swaffham that we all love.

“When a councillor operates outside of the Code of Conduct it is something that needs to be examined and acted upon.

“A failure by the council to do so would be a dereliction of its duty to the town.”


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