Council's 'wasteful' freesheet should stay, report says
PUBLISHED: 15:00 07 June 2011 | UPDATED: 16:39 07 June 2011
Tower Hamlets Council plans to continue publishing its taxpayer-funded newspaper every week - in defiance of government guidelines.
It is one of only a handful of rebel authorities in the country to ignore an order to redirect the tens of thousands spent on its freesheet, East End Life into frontline services.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles has described the papers as a “waste of public money” and earlier this year parliament passed guidelines limiting them to quarterly publications.
In its seven recommendations, the government also insisted that town hall papers do not mimic commercial ones, do not hire lobbyists to promote their own agenda and stated that only information relating to the council should be published.
As the new code was voted through the House of Lords earlier this year, Baroness Hanham took a swipe at town hall rags, arguing that freedom of the press was important in “providing information to the public to hold their local authority to account”.
But after a four-month review into East End Life, council chiefs have decided its continuation in a weekly format is justified.
East End Life is needed to “keep residents informed, promote racial equality and provide best value for money,” it said.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet are voting tomorrow on whether to follow the proposal to keep the paper weekly.
If members vote it through, some minor changes will be made to the paper.
Its TV listings section will be removed and it will be redesigned to differentiate it from commercial newspapers.
East End Life, which was launched in 1993, costs the taxpayer £1.5 million a year.
In March the council agreed to shave £200,000 from its budget.
The council insisted its latest recommendations “comply with the seven key principles of the [government’s] code”.