Labour calls for Tower Hamlets council ‘Pravda’ to be investigated

A free newspaper delivered to 90,000 addresses every week by Tower Hamlets Council has been reported to an independent auditor by the Labour party over what it calls “political bias” in its reporting.

In a letter to the district auditor, Labour said the council-run East End Life was a “flagrant waste of taxpayer money” and called for an investigation before the local elections next year.

The controversial freesheet has been criticised by Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, for flouting a government ban on what he called “Town Hall Pravdas”, referring to the official paper of the Soviet Union.

Earlier this month, Labour councillors found 158 quotes and 92 pictures of the Mayor and independent councillors over the course of three months to August 13.

A Labour group inquiry revealed the freesheet is costing taxpayers £1.5 million a year.

Cllr Sirajul Islam, leader of the Labour group in Tower Hamlets, said: “People need to see action is being taken to stop the mayor abusing his position and running the council as his own personal publicity machine.

“The bias that has been revealed in East End Life makes it clear that taxpayer money is being run for the mayor not for the people of the borough as it was intended.”

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John Biggs, Labour’s candidate for mayor, said the use of East End Life “for political self-promotion is totally wrong” and pledged to review the paper immediately if elected mayor.

A council spokesperson said: “Local authorities have a duty to report back on the performance of the administration and the services available for residents, including those that affect health, community safety and social cohesion.”

He said the council follows the guidelines in the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity to make sure the council’s publicity is “fair, balanced and politically neutral”.