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A GOVERNMENT minister has criticised a town council’s proposal to ban councillors from talking to the media without getting written permission first.

Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said democratically elected politicians should not be restricted from speaking freely to the media and public following publication of Witney Town Council’s new draft media policy.

The draft policy states: “Councillors and staff, other than the clerk or communications officer, cannot in their official capacity provide verbal or written statements to the media, or write articles for publication, using the media, about the council’s business decisions and actions without the council’s prior written consent.”

Mr Lewis said: “Local democracy requires robust and open scrutiny by elected representatives.

“It is not acceptable for any council to try to systematically restrict the rights of councillors to communicate their views to the press and public.

“Indeed, the Localism Act amended the law to make it clear that councillors can speak up and champion community issues.”

Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron previously said the council must work “in an open and tranparent way”.

Town council spokeswoman Polly Inness said the draft policy was issued to councillors to “consider, amend and discuss at a future meeting”.

She claimed it was taken from guidelines by the National Association of Local Councils.