Wiltshire Council has refused to give the Wiltshire Times and Gazette & Herald email addresses of candidates standing in the forthcoming unitary, town and parish council elections.

In the build up to the May 2 ballots, the papers contacted the council to get every candidates’ email address  to offer them a chance of a  brief biography as part of a pre-election preview.

But Wiltshire Council said it could not give out the addresses, citing the constraints of the Data Protection Act

 A council spokesman said its official form for candidate applications only asked for an email address as an option and not all candidates had given their addresses. He said it could not give out the addresses because it had not warned candidates it might do so.

Editor Gary Lawrence said: “Then we asked the council to send a letter out on our behalf but it said its legal department had advised against this because it would give some candidates an ‘unfair advantage’, which is plainly ridiculous. We pointed out that we would write to all the other candidates but it made no difference, the council seems too frightened it might upset someone.

“This is very frustrating because all we are trying to do is support and encourage local democracy but the council is too bounded by its own red tape and legal paranoia to have any common sense in this matter. I fail to see how any candidate could take umbrage.”

Wiltshire Labour Councillor Ricky Rogers said: “It’s just a load of nonsense, as candidates we are out and about knocking on doors and would love media exposure and the authority running the elections are just getting caught up in bureaucracy trying to limit this. Its making a mockery of the process and it needs a major reboot.”

Wiltshire Coucnillors Jon Hubbard, leader of the region's Liberal Democrates, said: "Elections are all about choosing the best possible candidate and it seems madness to me to stop people from hearing from potential councillors."

Andrew Mozley, UKIP chairman for south west Wiltshire, said: “I’m surprised by this as I would have thought that coverage from a respectable organisation, such as yourselves, would be welcomed by candidates. I suspect that the people organising the election are not trying to obstruct the process but are just very cagey about what they are allowed to do and not allowed to do.”

David McQueen, of the Green Party, standing for election as a unitary councillor in the Bradford on Avon North division, said: “The council just don’t seem to be very helpful with these sorts of things and this just doesn’t seem to make any sense for the candidates or a media outlet.

"There should be more common sense and applications should perhaps have carried a box asking if candidates were happy to be contacted by the press.”

When contacted Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council and the Wiltshire Conservative Group, said: “I will go and speak to our legal team for advice about why this has happened and get back to you.”

She has yet to reply.

The papers will now be forced to write to each candidiate.

Mr Lawrence said: “We are determined not to let the council get in the way of our election coverage."