Council bans war veteran from publicising Remembrance Day event - because it's 'semi-political'


Last updated at 14:54 05 October 2007

A veteran councillor has been banned from using his local authority's photocopier to publicise the annual Remembrance Day parade because of rules about personal and political use of facilities.

Len Long, 82, wanted to copy a few dozen A4-size posters and letters to remind people about the event to salute the sacrifices made in two world wars and other conflicts.

But he said officers at Havering Council in Romford, Essex, refused permission because they would have been used for 'semi-political' purposes and would have been an improper use of taxpayers' money.

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len long

Mr Long, a Second World War Navy veteran who has been a councillor for 29 years, said: "It's bureaucracy gone totally wrong. All I wanted was to make 30 copies of this poster I had made to send out to community groups and about 80 letters.

"I cannot use their photocopier for private or political use and they deem this semi-political. But this was for the benefit of the community and my name does not appear on the posters.

"My name is on the letters but that is because I am from the Bretons Seafarers Association, who help to organise the parade.

"Years ago the council's PR department was even allowed to help me but now there are all sorts of new rules stifling what you can do."

Mr Long, who is battling heart and breathing problems, served extensively in the Atlantic during the Second World War as a Navy quartermaster.

He has been involved with the council since 1948, when he was first co-opted onto a committee, and is now a member for the Residents Association group(CORR) in his home ward of Rainham, Essex.

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His father and son have also served with the same local authority, although for different parties.

The widower of eight years is president of the Bretons Seafarers Association whose 'dwindling group' of six members team up with the local Royal British Legion branch each year to organise the Remembrance Day parade and service.

Last year 500 members of public - including 250 children - cheered on 12 veterans.

"It brought tears to my eyes when I saw all those children. It made me feel like people hadn't forgotten what we'd done," he said.

"I've spoken to a number of people about what happened with the council and I haven't found anybody yet who thought I was in the wrong."

Cllr Barbara Matthews, leader of the Residents Association group, said: 'This whole thing is damned silly. The council is getting its knickers in a twist over £1 worth of posters.

"I'm a council tax payer myself and I can understand why councillors should not use council equipment for their own purposes but this is quite different. Common sense should have prevailed here."

A Rainham printing firm has now stepped in to produce the posters.

Last year the Conservative-run council held an exhaustive enquiry and produced a 300-page report, costing a total of £10,000, after a group of councillors allegedly made baa-ing noises during a debate about sheep.

The council yesterday denied the ruling had anything to do with alleged 'political' use.

Council leader Michael White said: "The council has a policy about personal use which applies to me and all 54 members. It was put there to stop people abusing council facilities.

"It could be said that what Cllr Long was doing was for the community but there are lots of good causes and if we allow that, where do we stop?

"If he wants me to review the rules I am quite happy to do that but no one has asked so far."

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