27 September 2019 Council and democracy

Local paper publishes fake quote from council leader

In the print edition of today’s The Argus newspaper, the front page story featured a photo of council leader, Councillor Nancy Platts, with the quote “We can’t cope” above her picture. Councillor Platts did not say “We can’t cope”, this was made up by The Argus. 

The online story does not include the false quote. The article reports on comments made by Councillor Platts at a Labour Party Conference event. 

The Argus contacted Councillor Platts for further comment on the financial pressures facing local government and was given a full reply (shared at the end of this story) two days ago on Wednesday 25 September. 

Councillor Platts was highlighting how reducing government grants have impacted on delivering services. The challenges and struggles faced by local government have been widely reported, locally and nationally. This is very different from “We can’t cope”.

The Argus was contacted this morning and we asked for a correction and apology to be issued. 

Argus apology

Update: At about 3pm this afternoon, The Argus agreed to add a correction and apology to their social media posts about the story. A prominent printed correction is due to be published in tomorrow's newspaper. 

The Argus statement reads:

Correction to our front page story Friday 27 September
Councillor Nancy Platts did not say “We can’t cope” as we prominently stated on our front page. The quote was written by The Argus and used to promote an article on page 5 about the ongoing challenges facing local government.
We apologise for misquoting the leader of the council in this way and accept it should not have happened.

Financial pressures

In response to a query from The Argus asking for her views on the local government funding situation, Councillor Platts said: 

“Year on year we’ve seen government grants slashed and the impact of this financial attack on local government is being felt by local people.

“It costs more than £2million to run our 700 council services every day. Since 2010 more than £100 million has been removed from the core annual government grants for our council. This means we can find we are struggling to do the basics well such as emptying bins and removing graffiti.

“With more funding we could look at important issues such as making closer links between health and social care services, reinstating rehabilitation, day centres and children’s centres, focusing on more community engagement, building more homes, addressing climate change and improving the look and feel of our city.

“Although the government does give grants for individual projects which we can use to make the city better, funding is ring-fenced so we can only decide how to spend the money within that project and in line with any conditions associated with accepting the grant.

“Until the government starts to release detail of its planned funding for future years we are still very much working in the dark to plan for the safe and effective delivery of important council services for all residents.”