Tower Hamlets Council newspaper to be outlawed, government confirms

Communities secretary Eric Pickles

Communities secretary Eric Pickles - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

The government confirmed laws stopping town halls publishing newspapers such as Tower Hamlets’ ‘East End Life’ in the Queen’s speech this week.

East End Life

East End Life - Credit: Archant

Communities secretary Eric Pickles had previously promised to place existing rules governing council publications on a legal footing.

And in last week’s overview of the government’s planned legislation, it was confirmed that laws would be passed to prevent councils competing with the free press at the taxpayer’s expense.

Announcing the Local Audit and Accountability Bill, Mr Pickles said: “This bill extends the government’s localism agenda – ensuring robust scrutiny of council spending, strengthening the role of direct democracy and protecting an independent free press.”

Town halls are already subject to a code of practice on publicity – but the new bill will put this code on a legal footing.

Tower Hamlets Council has repeatedly been criticised by ministers for its failure to comply with rules in the past. Attempts by opposition councillors to remove funding for East End Life have proved futile as Mayor Lutfur Rahman raided town hall cash reserves to ensure it remained open.

Tory group leader Cllr Peter Golds, who has long campaigned against the paper, said: “I’m delighted it’s (the code) is going to be put on a statutory basis. We want this on the statute book as soon as possible.

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“We cannot have East End Life being published in the year coming up to an election.”

But Tower Hamlets Council insists its weekly newspaper represents good value for money.

It pointed to research published by the Local Government Association which found that council publications represent the most cost-effective way of communicating with residents.

A spokesperson added that “the publication plays a vital role in promoting community cohesion in our proudly diverse borough and is widely read by residents.”