Commons slams town hall weeklies as attack on democracy’
TOWN Hall “propaganda” newspapers which cost London taxpayers millions of pounds a year are coming in for scathing criticism in Parliament this-afternoon. Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Paul Burstow is telling the Commons how local authorities are running unfair competition against the local press, running subsidised weekly papers without scrutiny which he says is harming local democracy
TOWN Hall “propaganda” weekly papers which cost London taxpayers millions of pounds a year are coming in for scathing criticism in Parliament this-afternoon.
Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Paul Burstow is telling the Commons how Tower Hamlets council is operating unfair competition against the East London Advertiser, running its own subsidised weekly paper competing for advertising, and all without scrutiny which he says is harming local democracy.
Nine London local authorities are now following Tower Hamlets and running their own subsidised weekly papers in competition with the local press.
Mr Burstow, the MP for Sutton, refers to “a vision of the State-run local newspaper that goes well beyond providing information about council services.”
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He is telling the Commons: “These councils are spending public money to produce propaganda masquerading as newspapers. It cannot be healthy for local democracy and accountability for the only source of local news to be paid for by the council.
“Local papers are part of the lifeblood of our democracy. I urge the Government to act now to safeguard our local press against unfair competition from town halls.”
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Mr Burstow refers to Tower Hamlets paying out �800,000 last year after cancelling its chief executive’s contract, another �1m compensation to a former employee and �500,000 redundancy to its Head of Human Resources.
But not a single column inch was devoted to this in the council’s East End Life’ newspaper.
He adds: “Just imagine if a beleaguered Prime Minister was to hire a team to turn out a daily newspaper to create a positive image of the Government, talking up’ its achievements, all at a huge cost to the taxpayer. There would rightly be an outcry.”
But that was what was happening at a local level. Taxpayers’ money was being used to pay for loss-making council-run newspapers.