York council given ‘rotten boroughs’ award for ‘airbrushing history’ after censoring official video

Cllr Sonja Crisp when she was Lord Mayor of York. Photograph: City of York Council
14 Jan 2017 @ 6.03 pm
| News

The moment when City of York Council tried to silence one of its citizens has won it a very dubious national honour.

National satirical magazine Private Eye runs a ‘Rotten Boroughs’ column, investigating wrongdoing in councils across the country.

In its latest issue the column has dished out awards for the most glaring examples of “municipal mediocrity and worse” in 2016.

And City of York Council receives the Airbrushing History Award.

This was for the debacle last March, first revealed in YorkMix, when York resident Gwen Swinburn was censored not once but twice.

‘Like she didn’t exist’

Private Eye chronicled the incident shortly after it happened. In its latest issue the magazine explains why it has given York council the award:

Campaigning resident Gwen Swinburn won the gratitude of fellow council taxpayers when she exposed unlawful secret payments to senior staff at York city council.

Swinburn registered to speak on the matter when it was debated by the council in March, but she was stopped by Lord Mayor Sonja Crisp and ejected from the chamber.

All this was edited out of the council’s online footage of the meeting as if Swinburn did not exist.

Only after Cllr Mark Warters threatened to call an extraordinary meeting of the council did officials relent and reinstate the video of Gwen being silenced by the Lord Mayor.

At the time, a spokesperson from City of York Council said the video was edited for unspecified “legal reasons”.

Gwen Swinburn speaking at the City of York Council meeting. Photograph: YouTube

In response to Private Eye‘s award, Gwen told YorkMix that “the appalling behaviour of diva ex-Lord Mayor Sonja Crisp continues to bring City of York Council into disrepute”.

She added:

The fact that the top staff aided and abetted her in her silencing of all criticism from citizens and councillors is the conduct I wouldn’t expect to see in most developing countries let alone York.

I am truly ashamed, as should she be, of this award. Yet nothing was done to hold her to account, nor those top staff for their joint endeavour, yet.