Councillors were not allowed to ask for ambulance hub to come back to Rugby during meeting - here's why

Two Rugby councillors who had proposed a motion which could have seen the council demand a return of an ambulance station to Rugby were not allowed to raise the issue at a meeting.

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 10:25 am
Updated Thursday, 28th November 2019, 10:25 am
Rugby Town Hall.

The motion, proposed by Cllr Barbara Brown (New Bilton, Labour) and seconded by Rugby Labour leader Cllr Maggie O'Rourke, was due to be discussed at Rugby Borough Council's November 14 meeting.

It states: "Rugby is the fastest growing town in the West Midlands and instead of seeing NHS services increase proportionally Rugby residents have experienced a year on year decline in the provision of local NHS services at St Cross Hospital.

"St Cross now only provides the most basic of emergency services, so patients with anything more serious than cuts and bruises will need to go to UHCW.

"Heart attacks, stokes, major trauma and the like all need a blue light ambulance service.

"Yet Rugby no longer has a local ambulance hub.

"We call on this council to make formal representation to the Clinical Commissioning Group and demand that an ambulance hub is reinstated in Rugby and fully resourced to meet the growing demands in Rugby.”

Cllr Brown told the Advertiser that she expected there would have been cross-party support for the motion.

But on the night of the meeting it was announced that the motion could not be heard because of purdah.

What is purdah?

Purdah comes into effect in the UK during the pre-election period - from the moment an election is announced to when a new government is formed.

It is intended to keep local and central government from spending public money on anything that could be seen as giving political candidates any advantage or disadvantage.

The Local Government Association (LGA) gives a question for those responsible to ask themselves as a way of determining if something could breach purdah.

That question is: "Could a reasonable person conclude that you were spending public money to influence the outcome of the election?"

So why did purdah mean the councillors couldn't raise the motion?

One of the acts which the LGA says could breach purdah is for councils to, 'produce publicity on matters which are politically controversial.'

The LGA's guidelines also state that councils can continue to run a campaign if it is already running and is non-controversial - for example, on issues like recycling or foster care.

But, the statement adds: "You should always think carefully if a campaign could be deemed likely to influence the outcome of the election and you should not use councillors in press releases and events in pre-election periods.

"In such cases you should stop or defer them. An example might be a campaign on an issue which has been subject of local political debate and/or disagreement."

Does purdah affect journalists too?

It is a common misconception that reporters are also subject to these regulations.

But purdah applies to those working for the government and local authorities, or politicians using taxpayers' money - not the press.

So for example, councillors are advised against using their council email addresses to send press releases during purdah - because the email address is taxpayer funded.