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Cambridgeshire County Council: An apology

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Many of our regular readers will no doubt be wondering what has happened to an ‘opinion’ piece published on our website on Friday, amended later that day, and on Monday withdrawn in its entirety.

The answer is simple. We made a mistake.

Whatever remaining merits (if any) there may be to the ‘opinion’ offered by our contributor in respect of City Deal and Cambridgeshire County Council, a serious misjudgement was made in allowing much of the associated commentary to accompany the statistics and financial statements put forward.

CambsNews is proud of its openness to debate and allowing opinion columns from multiple sources and across multiple topics.

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But in this instance the author (and therefore de facto the Editor of CambsNews in agreeing to its publication) crossed the threshold of what constitutes an opinion and what turned out to be damaging allegations against an  individual council officer and the properly legal and heavily scrutinised accounting by Cambridgeshire County Council.

We apologise, unreservedly, to the officer named in the original piece and to Cambridgeshire County Council and its staff for allowing comments to be published that are not simply unfair but wrong.

As the council acknowledges “the article has likely had a wide reach and has already been unfairly damaging – to both the council and a named officer of the council” and we unhesitatingly concur.

There are very specific allegations contained in the article and we apologise for each of them. Freedom of speech is a sacred principle of our country and the ability to express oneself fundamental to open government.

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But, as has happened in this instance, publishing unfair and unsubstantiated public criticism about council officials without the full measure of facts and allowing a perverted bias to form part of an ‘opinion’ piece is not acceptable.

Cambridgeshire County Council is right to be “disappointed that CambsNews – which is in regular contact with the council through its communications team – has published these claims without any fact-checking or taking reasonable care to verify the credence of what is alleged of the council.”

In this instance CambsNews allowed an opinion article submitted by a reader to fall well below the principles of objective journalism.

In conclusion we can only but endorse the following.

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“Cambridgeshire County Council takes seriously its duty of care to its officers,” their spokesperson told us

“In this case, the naming of an individual like this is nothing short of an attempt to bully, victimise or harass, which the council will not condone or accept in any way and is prepared to rigorously challenge both now and in the future.”

 * John Elworthy is Editor and Publisher of CambsNews 

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