THE leader of Christchurch council has come under fire after criticising the Daily Echo’s flood coverage as “pathetic”, “inaccurate” and “irresponsible”.
Cllr Ray Nottage’s blog post on Sunday night praised council officers for their clean-up efforts in the borough over the weekend but said “...not a journalist from our ‘high quality newspaper’ in sight. Too many good news stories I suspect!”
After responses from residents online saying his remark was “undeserved” and praising the comprehensive coverage, Cllr Nottage responded saying after all the work the council had done to inform and protect residents’ property, “I think it irresponsible to trivialise the work of council, the members and officers by the level of reporting displayed through the crisis.”
The Daily Echo exclusively reported last week that Christchurch council was refusing to provide flood-hit residents of Conifer Close with free sandbags or plastic sheeting.
Residents say they requested sandbags from the council but were told they would have to purchase floodsacks at £30 for a pack of four.
Responding to a comment on his blog, Cllr Nottage said of the Echo’s report: “To interpret that as ....charging for SANDBAGS.......is irresponsible as well as being inaccurate. All designed to deharmonise. Pathetic!!"
In a U-turn, just 24 hours later, the council announced it would provide sandbags and pledged to refund flood-hit residents who had bought their own.
When contacted by the Daily Echo, Cllr Nottage said he was “furious” about the coverage of the sandbag situation, saying the council did not charge for sandbags but had been charging £30 for four floodsacks.
He said the floodsacks were “innovations” launched two or three years ago and that up until last week, Christchurch council did not sell or hold sandbags but changed its policy on Thursday due to the severity of the impending storm.
“I thought you might have done a bit of journalistic research to establish the true nature of the situation”, he said.
He added: “You published inaccurate information which I think pulled the council into disrepute.”
The Daily Echo has not had any contact from Christchurch council over inaccuracies concerning the sandbags story.
Cllr Nottage later deleted one of his responses to a blog comment, saying it had been posted “in anger”.