Parliament set to outlaw Tower Hamlets propaganda paid out of council taxes

Council news-sheet paid out of taxes filled with East End crime

Council news-sheet paid out of taxes filled with East End crime - Credit: Archant

New measures are going through Parliament to stop local authorities like Tower Hamlets in London’s deprived East End ignoring government guidelines and continuing to run weekly “propaganda” publications paid out of council taxes.

Labour MP Andy Sawford raised a Commons Question asking Communities Secretary Eric Pickles what communication he has had with Tower Hamlets about following the Code of Practice on local authority publicity.

Under-Secretary Brandon Lewis revealed that Ministers had written to councillors several times who were “rightly concerned that the authority continues to fail to comply with the code”.

Mr Lewis added: “The issue should be taken up with the local district auditor—but it’s become clear auditors are unwilling or unable to take action on clear breaches of the code and abuses of taxpayers’ money.”

So the government began legislation earlier this year in the Local Audit and Accountability Bill, which has now passed its Commons First Reading and is before the Lords.

It will give guidelines legal force to stop town halls continuing to run freesheets on council taxes like Tower Hamlets, one of Britain’s most deprived boroughs.

The Mayor uses taxes to put out 90,000 copies of the council’s East End Life through letterboxes every week, estimated to cost around £1.5 million a year, which doesn’t take rent and commercial rates into account that businesses like the local press have to fork out.

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Opposition councillors in both the Labour and Conservative camps have accused independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman of using East End Life for propaganda in the run-up to next year’s local elections.

Both sides have complained at the number of his pictures and quotes it carries week on week while there is virtually no mention of locally-elected ward councillors outside his own independent group.