Tower Hamlets Mayor defies Government over ‘Pravda’ newspaper

The District Auditor is being brought in over the row about Tower Hamlets continuing to run its weekly ‘Pravda’ propaganda newspaper paid for out of council taxes.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman rejected a move last night to overturn his decision to continue publishing East End Life—despite Government edicts to stop all council-run newspapers competing with the local press.

“I reaffirm our decision on East End Life,” he told his cabinet.

He rejected pressure from the authority’s scrutiny committee to ‘call in’ the council’s internal review of costs.

The review came up with a reason to keep it going that both Tory and Labour opposition have rejected as “false.”

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It claims this option would cost “nil”—even though it should be budgeted at a conservative �1.5 million annually.

Town Hall accountancy covers this ‘nil’ cost with advertising revenue—much of it internal—but excludes office rental, business tax and utilities which are absorbed in overall council running costs that would normally have to be paid for by rival commercial organisations like the local press.

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“These are false figures which don’t reflect the true cost to taxpayers,” Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds told the East London Advertiser.

“We are calling on the District Auditor to shut down East End Life—it’s just propaganda for the mayor.

“The mayor is flouting Government instructions given under the statutory powers of the Local Government Act that these ‘Pravdas’ should be quarterly.”

Labour is also calling for its closure. Labour Group leader Joshua Peck said: “East End Life is a luxury Tower Hamlets cannot afford, when the mayor is cutting front-line services.”

The council’s review into costs also suggests that switching to quarterly publication, following Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’ guidelines, would cost �61,000.

Scrapping East End Life altogether would hit �1.5 million through “loss of advertising”, which critics say should go to the local press which is facing unfair competition subsidised from council taxes.

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