Parliament restricts town hall newspapers to four copies a year
New guidelines were passed by Parliament last night preventing town halls from publishing their own newspapers more than four times a year.
The code, originally laid out by communities secretary Eric Pickles, also said the tax-payer funded freesheets should not be in direct competition with local independent press.
Councils including Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Greenwich have come under fire for spending ten of thousands on producing the freesheets while driving through major cuts to frontline services.
The new guidelines also state that council publications should only contain material directly related to their services.
Tower Hamlets’ East End Life currently mimics an independent newspaper with restaurant reviews, TV listings and sports pages.
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It costs the council �1.5 million a year to run.
The code of practice also wants to toughen up the rules on the use of lobbyists by town halls.
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The practice was described as a “waste of public money”, by Baroness Hanham, who introduced the code to the House of Lords.
She added that the freedom of the press was important in “providing information to the public to hold their local authority to account”.
Town hall rags by their nature do not publish material which shows the authority in a bad light.
The baroness added: “It is equally important that the readers of a newspaper can readily tell whether what they are reading is part of the independent press or a publication by the council about the council and setting out the council’s message.”
Some councils have argued they cannot fulfil their statutory duty to give the public information on housing and other services without printing their own titles.
What do you think about town hall freesheets?
Are they wasting public money or are they a valuable resource?
Leave comments below.