Police slammed for running ads in council ‘propaganda’ paper

The Metropolitan police have been criticised for advertising in a Town Hall weekly newspaper funded out of council tax which contravenes Government guidelines.

A formal protest has been sent to Communities & Local Government State Secretary Eric Pickles about Tower Hamlets council attempting to “squeeze the life out of the free press.”

The Tower Hamlets division of the Met Police, in partnership with the council, is criticised for no longer placing any advertising in the Docklands & East London Advertiser.

It places ads in the council’s East End Life instead, which is sent free through 90,000 letterboxes.

Tory Group opposition leader Peter Golds wants the practice stopped and has asked the Secretary of State to use the Parliamentary guidelines passed last year banning local authority “propaganda” being published more than four times a year.

“One method of the council’s operation is to squeeze the life out of the free press—leaving this increasingly bizarre propaganda sheet as the only local news outlet,” says Cllr Golds’ letter to Mr Pickles.

“The independent local media exists by way of advertisements. The council simply does not place adverts in the Advertiser, our long-standing local paper.

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“Far more disturbingly is that the police now concentrate all their local advertising on East End Life. This gives further credence to the ‘independence’ of East End Life.”

The last time the police placed any advertising in the Advertiser was in April, 2010, Cllr Golds points out.

“This continues despite Parliament having passed guidelines to limit propaganda published by a local authority,” his letter adds.

He accuses the Met Police of “giving credibility to something which Parliament has ruled should be closed down.”

Media critics such as the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade point to concerns about the “gradual elimination” of a newspaper that is able to hold the local authority to account, whereas East End Life is part of the council’s PR department which he says is “not publishing genuine journalism.”