Government plans law to curb Tower Hamlets’ ‘town hall Pravda’

PUBLISHED: 14:19 11 April 2013 | UPDATED: 14:19 11 April 2013

Communities secretary Eric Pickles

Communities secretary Eric Pickles

PA Archive/Press Association Images

The government has launched a consultation to tackle “rogue” councils such as Tower Hamlets which continue to publish “town hall Pravdas”.

Local government secretary Eric Pickles announced plans to legislate to tackle publications such as the council’s weekly ‘East End Life’.

He slammed local authorities such as Tower Hamlets which flout guidelines designed to clamp down on the use of taxpayers’ money on “political propaganda”.

“Some councils are undermining the free press and wasting taxpayers’ money which should be spent carefully on the front line services that make a real difference to quality of life”, he said.

“It should not, under any circumstances, be used to fund political propaganda and town hall Pravdas, and yet a hardcore minority of councils continue to ignore the rules despite public concern.”

Mr Pickles singled out Tower Hamlets Council for criticism, citing a report from broadcasting watchdog Ofcom which found advertisements promoting Mayor Lutfur Rahman to be in breach of its code. “This legislation will stop this disgraceful misuse of public money, which damages local democracy and threatens an independent, free and vibrant local press”, he added.

Opposition councillors in Tower Hamlets recently voted to scrap the £1.2m budget for East End Life.

But Mayor Lutfur Rahman announced he would raid council reserves to continue funding the publication into next year.

The government consultation - which runs until May 6 – is aiming to determine how best to frame legislation stopping councils spending money on such publications.

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