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Brandon Lewis berates Tower Hamlets over £20m contract to print councils' 'Pravdas'

PUBLISHED: 13:44 26 February 2013 | UPDATED: 16:24 26 February 2013

Government ministers have slammed Tower Hamlets Council for "misusing public funds" after it tendered for a £20m contract to print "propaganda" for other local authorities.

Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis launched his latest attack on the Lutfur Rahman administration after the Council announced it will tender for a four year contract to print publications for London boroughs including Hackney and Newham.

“Councils should be looking to cut out waste and unnecessary spending to help pay off the deficit inherited by the last administration, including stopping weekly Town Hall Pravdas”, said Mr Lewis.

“Yet it is astonishing that Tower Hamlets is actively encouraging councils to spend up to £20 million of taxpayers’ money on more propaganda on the rates.

“By continuing to publish so-called newspapers such as East End Life, Tower Hamlets are not only misusing public funds, they are ultimately damaging local democracy and an independent, free press”, he added.

A spokesperson for the Council insisted that “council publications play a vital role in supporting community cohesion and raising awareness of services for residents”.

The contract framework also includes plans to develop electronic versions of council publications and smart phone apps.

Brandon Lewis made the comments just weeks after criticising Tower Hamlets in Palriament for “a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and mismanagement of council staff and resources”.

He added that the government was looking at introducing legislation to govern local authority publications, describing them as a “corrosive abuse of taxpayers’ money”.

Tower Hamlets Council’s Tory group leader Cllr Peter Golds, who alerted the government to the tendering contract, added: “Importantly, if the underlying legislation were to be changed by Parliament, and it will be, and a council knows that in advance, then there would be no recourse to compensation if subsequently their contracts were rendered unlawful expenditure by that legislation.

“We shall be warning all printers that the moment it can be done the contract will be terminated”.

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