Eric Pickles promises clampdown on Tower Hamlets’ council-run newspaper

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has promised to stamp out council-run newspapers such as East End Life, describing them as “town-hall Pravdas”.

The Coalition government tried to tackle the issue of such newspapers by revising the Code of Recommended Practice in February 2011, but Tower Hamlets council has consistently refused to comply with the amended guidelines.

Speaking to BBC Radio London on Tuesday, Mr Pickles vowed to introduce new statutory measures to deal with the small number of councils which continue to spend public money on what he describes as “propaganda”.

He criticised the two remaining London boroughs, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich, who continue to produce newspapers, describing the publications as “self-aggrandisement and self publicity”.

“What we will do is we will put it on a statutory footing and we will stop these town hall Pravdas,” continued Mr Pickles.

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Media commentator and professor of journalism at City University Roy Greenslade used his Guardian blog to respond to Mr Pickles’ promises. He outlined the problem, but was dubious of whether Mr Pickles would succeed in tackling it.

He wrote: “Two London councils, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich, have simply ignored his code and ignored his threats by continuing to publish their papers. While other councils obeyed the code, he has allowed them to go on their merry way for 18 months.

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“Pickles may talk an awful lot about dispensing with “town hall Pravdas” but his actions have never matched his words,” Mr Greenslade continued.

The council distributes 81,000 copies of East End Life each week, strangling independent news sources in the borough, including The Advertiser.

Editor Malcolm Starbrook, said: “East End Life fails to report the stories which affect real people in the borough. Issues like budget overspends, arrests of councillors and cuts to public services simply don’t get reported by in East End Life.”

However, a Tower Hamlets spokesperson was bullish about the future of their paper: “We will continue to monitor the performance of East End Life to ensure that it continues to fulfil the needs of our local community, who we, not central government, are best placed to understand.”

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