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Tower Hamlets Labour and Tory councillors demand fresh review into Town Hall paper

13:11 06 July 2011

Councillors at Tower Hamlets have thrown out the decision to keep the council’s tax-funded paper East End Life back at the decision-making cabinet.

At last night’s night’s overview and scrutiny meeting seven out of eight committee members voted in favour of sending the decision to carry on with the weekly freesheet back to cabinet for an independent and impartial review.

Six Labour committee members supported the Tory group, which called in last month’s cabinet decision to continue to publish East End Life.

Addressing the committee the Conservatives’ David Snowdon branded the cabinet’s decision to keep East End Life on a weekly basis “unlawful” in light of new government guidelines, stipulating that council titles should go quarterly.

Cllr Snowdon said: “The council can’t just pick and choose which regulations to stick too and sweep others under the carpet.”

Along with Labour councillors he went on to say that the council’s review into East End Life, led by its own communications chief Takki Sulaiman, was neither independent nor impartial.

Cllr Snowdon also said the costs of producing East End Life, estimated at £1.5 million a year, were “flawed”. Savings that could be made on office rental, IT and HR by closing down the freesheet were not included in the report, along with competitive advertising quotes for putting council notices in other publications instead, such as the East London Advertiser.

But defending the report Mr Sulaiman, said they felt East End Life was the best way of reaching residents in the “most cost-effective way”.

And addressing the committee Independent cabinet member Alibor Choudhury argued that the report had been “objective” and “impartial”.

He said some editorial changes are being made and £200,000 is being cut from the freesheet’s budget. But he was met with sneering when claiming that 624 people responding to a survey on East End Life, which is delivered to 87,000 households, was a “good turn-out”. Of those, 330 voted to keep the paper weekly.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Stephanie Eaton, the only committee member to vote against the call-in, said the paper was good at celebrating the achievements of community groups.

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