A social media post by the Barnet Conservatives suggesting journalists should not “bother” councillors about the Dominic Cummings controversy has sparked criticism.

Residents and other Twitter users claimed the issue – which has attracted widespread media coverage – is of interest to people living in Barnet and reporters should be asking questions about it.

Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, faced criticism for allegedly flouting the Government’s own lockdown rules over a visit to his parents’ farm in County Durham during March and April.

On Monday (May 25), Mr Cummings denied breaking the rules and claimed he had acted “reasonably and legally” – and was backed by PM Boris Johnson.

But some commentators warned the aide’s visit risked undermining the Government’s public health messaging designed to stop the spread of coronavirus.

A poll by JL Partners for the Daily Mail revealed 65 per cent of those surveyed thought Mr Cummings’ actions would make people less likely to follow lockdown rules.

On Tuesday, Local Democracy Reporters across the UK contacted Conservative councillors to gauge grassroots opinion on the matter.

The Barnet Times took part in the project, and Barnet Council leader Cllr Dan Thomas responded saying Mr Cummings’ actions were “not a matter for the council”.

The Barnet Conservatives later tweeted the Barnet Times article and commented: “Journalists should not be bothering councillors about this. It is not a matter for local government.”



In response, Sachin Patel posted: “Incredibly blasé. When even leading backbench Tory MPs are being denied the opportunity to quiz the PM on the Cummings saga, it’s only right Barnet residents get clarity from councillors as to how we should now interpret Government guidelines.”



Darren Spalding added: “Riiiiiiiiight. I’m a Tory voter in Barnet and I’d like to know whether the Tory Council agrees with the Government’s position that what Cummings did was both legal and followed the guidelines. It will help me form my view on how to vote at the next council elections.”



Another Twitter user, Naomi, commented: “Given that the council has a role in enforcing lockdown, seems like a very relevant question to me. Councils shouldn’t be telling journalists how to do their jobs.”



Dave Saul posted: “Not sure illiberal anti-media sentiment is going to wash in Barnet.”



And Cllr Mike Stubbs, a Labour councillor at Newcastle-Under-Lyme borough council, added: “O my Lord … You should feel free to resign if you feel unable to answer questions on behalf of your Party. Local Government should be front and centre of the wider Covid-19 debate and tweets like this belittle the skills and knowledge of @LGAcomms Cllrs regardless of party.”



Conservative councillors from other local authorities, including neighbouring Enfield, have taken the opportunity to respond to questions on the Dominic Cummings row.

Barnet Council’s leader issued a further statement in response to the criticism from Twitter users.

Cllr Thomas said: “As I noted yesterday, my focus and that of other councillors is on dealing with Covid in Barnet at this challenging time.

“The council is working hard to protect the most vulnerable and we are pleased to have been given thanks and support from colleagues across the political spectrum for the hard work we are doing.

“What we are not doing is focusing on a story about an individual incident regarding one Government advisor – particularly as he has now responded to press queries, as has his employer. While this might be an interest piece to some, it is not a story that has any material impact on Barnet residents.

Times Series:

“What does have a material impact on our residents are issues such as the Mayor of London’s decision to prematurely reinstate the congestion charge at an inflated price – which could well damage London’s recovery from this pandemic by driving people onto public transport.

“What does have a material impact is the resumption of bin collections across the borough and the reopening of the Summers Lane dump as we try to resume as close to normal service as possible across the council.

“These are issues that actually impact our residents, and they are matters for local government. At a time when we are stretching ourselves to help our residents, these are the stories that matter to the people of Barnet”.