East End Life will stay

Tower Hamlets Council’s taxpayer-funded newspaper is to remain a weekly publication, it was decided last night.

At a cabinet meeting at the town hall, mayor Lutfur Rahman chose to ignore government guidelines stipulating that titles like East End Life should go quarterly.

The decision came after a four-month report in which the council asked businesses and residents their views on keeping the paper in the tough economic climate.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has branded the freesheets a “waste of public money” and said cash used on them should be redirected to frontline services instead.

Of the 87,000 households that receive the paper, 624 people responded and, of those, 51 per cent voted to keep the paper weekly.

Members of the Labour and Conservative parties, in opposition to the Independent mayor, said that was not enough support.

Councillor Motin Uz-Zaman, deputy leader of the Labour group, said: “For 330 residents to say it should continue as a weekly paper is not a real justification.”

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Leader of the Tories in Tower Hamlets, Cllr Peter Golds, said: “It’s appalling. If you shut it down the staff goes, the print goes, the distribution goes and that saves a heck of a lot of money. In a borough of a quarter of a million they only spoke to 624 people and even then they only got 51 per cent voting for it.”

After the meeting, head of communications at the council, Takki Sulaiman - who also led the review into the paper’s future - said: “It’s not really an issue for the government. We will keep the editorial in the spirit of the new guidelines.

“We considered going online but we need to make sure that people who don’t have access to a PC at home get to see it.”

New guidelines say council papers should not mimic commercial ones or use lobbyists and must remain fair and impartial in their editorial.

East End Life costs �1.5 million a year to run but the council says it expects to recoup the full costs through advertising in the coming years.

It says it will spend more money advertising statutory notices and information about its social housing stock externally than in East End Life.

The Tories have accused the council of using misleading figures and say much of the money brought in from advertising does not come from outside sources but other council departments.

The new paper will have some changes.

The TV listings section will go but the sports section and food reviews – whereby the council pays for its own officers to review restaurants – will stay.