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Communities secretary Eric Pickles slams Tower Hamlets Council over Ofcom report

12:28 05 February 2013

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has rebuked Tower Hamlets Council after broadcasting watchdog Ofcom said an advertisement it took out amounted to a political broadcast promoting Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

During a Parliamentary debate on Monday Mr Pickles was asked by Conservative MP for Bromley and Chislehurst Robert Neill whether he had seen the report, which said the advertisement “plainly sought to convey the aspirations of [the] Mayor, Mr Rahman.”

Mr Pickles responded: “I was shocked to read that report and I am very unhappy with what is going on in the borough.”

The minister has consistently pledged to place the code governing local authority publicity onto a statutory footing, and has regularly criticised Tower Hamlets Council’s East End Life weekly newspaper.

Expressing his concerns over the Ofcom report, Mr Pickles said he was looking “as a matter of urgency” at introducing legislation to tackle what he described as Town Hall “propaganda”.

Tower Hamlets’ Conservative group leader Cllr Peter Golds complained to Ofcom after the advertisement was shown across five Bangladeshi television channels in January last year.

It featured photographs of Mayor Rahman in the cab of a digger and inspecting a flat, and outlined his aims for improving the borough’s housing situation. His signature and title were also shown prominently on screen throughout the 30 second broadcast.

The watchdog’s report, published in January 2013, found the broadcasts breached its code of conduct. Tower Hamlets Council declined to comment on the report, and has previously dismissed Mr Pickles’ concerns over East End Life.

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