Communities secretary Eric Pickles slams Tower Hamlets Council... again

Communities secretary Eric Pickles

Communities secretary Eric Pickles - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has hit out at Tower Hamlets Council for continuing to publish its “glossy” weekly newspaper.

In a speech delivered to the Society of Editors, Mr Pickles singled out Tower Hamlets for failing to adhere to the government’s code of practice regulating publications.

He said: “A few rogue councils decided not to play by the rules. I’m going to stop that.

“So councils like Tower Hamlets with its glossy weekly title the ‘East End Life’ will finally have to put their house in order and put their local people first.”

The speech, delivered on Monday, followed the launch of a public consultation on council newspapers last week.

Tower Hamlets Conservative group leader Cllr Peter Golds has responded to the consultation pledging his “firmest support” for plans to outlaw East End Life.

He wrote: “Tower Hamlets was the first local authority to run a weekly newspaper and this organ, East End Life, has a deserved reputation of being a notorious, publicly funded propaganda sheet.

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“East End Life continues as a crude propaganda sheet, sent out weekly which will damage the local, independent media and potentially contravene the electoral process as no political party can have regular access to campaign funds equal to those available to a local authority.

“We fully support the principle as outlined in the consultation and urge implementation of statutory provision of the Code of Practice to enable the Secretary of State to order the closure of this blatant misuse of public money”, he concluded. Opposition councillors in Tower Hamlets recently voted to scrap the £1.2m budget for East End Life.

But Mayor Lutfur Rahman announced he would raid council reserves to continue funding the publication into next year.

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council confirmed it will respond to the consultation, adding: “The decline of local newspapers (which is a result of a number of factors, including easily accessible 24-hour rolling news) is taking place across the country, not solely in areas where local authorities issue publications.

“We, as local government, are best placed to understand and meet the needs of local people. The consultation as phrased seeks to give the Secretary of State the ability to intervene with individual councils on any publicity matter irrespective of the views of their elected executives. This is a huge step to take in a democracy.”