A SENIOR council official challenged city leaders over “political statements” in leaflets telling York residents when their rubbish would be collected, it has emerged.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show Roger Ranson, City of York Council’s then assistant director of city and environmental services, did not believe a reference to Government funding cuts should be included in calendars listing details of waste and recycling rounds, issued across the city last year.
This reference was removed from the original design after waste management officer Shaun Donnelly raised concerns about its political nature, but re-inserted with different wording at the request of the council’s Labour cabinet.
The final version of the calendar, explaining cuts to green bin collections and charges for some household waste, included the line: “During 2013/14, the Government has reduced its funding to City of York Council by £3.9 million”, before explaining the reasons for the service changes.
Emails from last August show Mr Ranson told the council’s communications team and senior officials: “It is not for an officer such as Shaun [Donnelly], or even myself, to sanction what is such an overt political statement”.
Having been told council leader James Alexander and Coun David Levene, cabinet member for environmental services, were “fine” with the wording and officials had ensured it would not be “open to challenge”, Mr Ranson replied: “Personally, I still think the message included in this resident notification is still overtly political, but if officers more senior to me are content with it, then so be it!”
Mr Ranson has since left the council, although there is no suggestion his departure was connected to his views on the waste calendars.
Osbaldwick councillor Mark Warters, who made the FOI request, said: “The documents which have been released show direct political pressure on officials by senior Labour councillors.
“It does make one wonder whether this is par for the course on other aspects of council business.”
Coun Levene said the effect of Government funding cuts on council services was “fact”. He said: “Our communications should explain and inform residents, as we did through this particular leaflet.
“A compromise wording was found which senior officers and councillors were happy with and which conveyed this information, while striking the right tone.
“Local councils, like central Government, are politically led organisations so it should not surprise Coun Warters to know that politicians are involved in making decisions.”