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Town hall chiefs defy rules on East End Life

PUBLISHED: 12:27 05 April 2011 | UPDATED: 12:33 05 April 2011

Council freesheets should only be published four times a year, Parliament says

Council freesheets should only be published four times a year, Parliament says

Archant

Tower Hamlets Council has continued to defy rules restricting its weekly newspaper to four copies a year – despite Parliament voting through the guidelines.

Rebel town hall bosses have said they will not reduce publication of East End Life, which costs the taxpayer £1.5 million a year, unless councillors vote to do so during a meeting on May 11.

They are currently carrying out a review into the freesheet but added that the new code will be given “full consideration”.

Councils like Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Greenwich have come under fire for spending ten of thousands on producing the papers while driving through major cuts to frontline services.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles wants to crack down on the town hall rags, describing them as a “waste of public money”.

Among other guidelines, the code says council papers should not be in competition with independent press, should not hire lobbyists and should only publish information relating to the council.

East End Life currently mimics an independent newspaper with restaurant reviews, TV listings and sports pages.

Town hall papers by their nature do not publish material which shows the authority in a bad light.

Baroness Hanham, who introduced the code to the House of Lords before it was voted through, said freedom of the press was important in “providing information to the public to hold their local authority to account”.

A council spokesman said of the East End Life review: “The report will consider the provisions of the code, have due regard to them and cabinet will make their decision based on the best way to serve the local community.”

It said it is not in defiance of the guidelines because its review will consider the new rules.

Members of the public and advertisers are being asked their views on the freesheet.

Earlier this year councillors voted to chop £200,000 from East End Life’s budget.

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