Friday 15 March 2013

Leaked emails and misuse of the internet

Once again I find myself at the wrong end of a leak from someone at Fenland District Council after an email sent by me to my political group was leaked to the press. There are all sorts of reasons this has happened, and they are all about individuals protecting themselves and are not about public interest.  This sort of leaking is the act of cowards who do not have the strength of character to voice their own opinions and choose instead to sneak behind people's backs through the media.  I have said before and I say again that the best service our local journalists could do for the people of Fenland is to expose these self-serving cowards rather than encourage them.

Those that have released these emails know that by leaking them they will create the impression that they are the totality of the debate, when in fact there have been many conversations around this topic, so it is an attempt to distort the public view of what is going on. I stand by what is reported, they are my words.  However, the broader media reporting of this issue has ignored the most important point - this is not a victorian rebellion because a councillor may or may not have accessed something pornographic.  I have been round for a long time, I know the way the world works, I know the sorts of things many hot-blooded people use the Internet for and have no issue with them using their own technology in their own time for doing so (as long as it is nothing illegal).

The point that has been missed is that there is a suggestion that a councillor may or may not have accessed pornography using a laptop that has been funded by the taxpayer. If this had been an employee of Fenland District Council or, I suspect, any other council, they would have been suspended whilst the issue was investigated and if their conduct was found wanting, they would face being sacked. It must not get to a situation where employees of Fenland or our residents could claim that an issue that would have such serious consequences for them may not have been treated in such a serious manner just because it was a Councillor. I make the point that Councillors and staff have to sign and agree acceptable use policies which specifically prohibit the use of computers to access pornography.

The process now being undertaken now is exactly the right one.  Whatever comes out at the end of this should be informed by the recent Standards Committee decision, but not dictated by it.  It is right for political groups to take their own view of serious issues like this including taking wider public concerns and the impact on Council staff into account as well as giving all members of that group an opportunity to listen and challenge about the issue.

I want to say now that I have not come to any conclusions about the rights and wrongs in this case, I just feel that it is absolutely right that this is given scrutiny within my political group in Fenland.

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