Tower Hamlets spent £30k on poll that praised council-run newspaper

Town Hall "Pravda" East End Life

Town Hall "Pravda" East End Life - Credit: Archant

Tower Hamlets Council spent £30,000 of taxpayers’ money on a poll about its council-run newspaper, weeks before a BBC report criticising the paper was broadcast.

The ICM poll on East End Life, delivered to 90,000 homes every week, was conducted face-to-face with 1,000 residents in February and March, with results published the day after BBC Panorama accused the paper of bias.

The £30,000 funding for the poll, approved in an executive order by Mayor Lutfur Rahman in March 2013, was revealed by the council after a Freedom of Information request.

Panorama found that 97.3 per cent of all quotes in the paper over the last year were from Mayor Lutfur Rahman and his party, who received 29 times the number of mentions in the paper than opposition councillors.

The programme on March 31 featured an interview with the Mayor in which he was asked about the paper and rejected the allegations of bias.

The next day Tower Hamlets Council published the results of the poll, explicitly linking their release to the claims made by Panorama.

A council statement said: “The results of this survey are particularly relevant given the allegations made in last night’s Panorama programme about how the council used East End Life.

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“These criticisms are not supported by the results of the ICM research.”

The poll found that 41 per cent of responders get most of their information about the council from the paper, with 37 per cent calling it their preferred way to receive council information.

However, these results were lower than in previous years, down from 59 per cent and 53 per cent respectively in 2007.

Tower Hamlets Council called the cost of the poll “not inconsiderable”, but justified it as part of a forthcoming review of the paper, which follows new laws that say it must come out less often and be objective.

A spokesman said: “It is important to build an accurate picture of how different segments of residents use East End Life.

“Given the complexity surrounding council publications it was felt that conducting an independent survey would provide the clarity required to make an effective decision.”