The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) has written to support Communities Secretary Eric Pickles in his latest crackdown on ‘Town Hall Pravdas’.
Speaking on BBC London this week, Mr Pickles vowed to introduce legislation to challenge local authorities which fail to comply with a formal code of practice on publicity.
His views correspond with considerable campaigning by the CIoJ who warn that taxpayer-funded council newspapers are eroding local democracy.
“Local and regional newspapers have traditionally been the place where councils get put under the microscope and where the issues councillors are less keen to shout about get covered,” said Dominic Cooper, the CIoJ’s General Secretary.
“It is grossly unfair to use taxpayers’ money to produce these publications which are no more than propaganda sheets.
“Even council newspapers which claim to be self-funding do that by taking advertising away from local newspapers. Is there sufficient scrutiny when businesses advertise in local authority newspapers and then with their other hand seek planning consent or challenge their licensing conditions?
“Councils need to focus on providing great schools, warm and secure housing and roads which are fit for pedestrians, cars and cycles and not be distracted by million pound propaganda sheets.”
Notes to editors:
Only two days ago (July 4) the CIoJ gave evidence on this subject at an all-party parliamentary group meeting, arranged by Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards. The Institute’s statement to the APPG can be found here.