Tower Hamlets council paper East End Life survives �55m cuts

TOWER Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman has declined the chance to cut back weekly council freesheet East End Life.

TOWER Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman has declined the chance to cut back weekly council freesheet East End Life.

The newspaper costs more than �1 million to produce, is distributed to 90,000 homes and has eight dedicated staff members, as well as contributions from various members of the council media team.

But despite budget proposals that will see �55 million slice off the Tower Hamlets expenditure, East End Life survive – for now.

In the Mayor’s proposals, to be debated in the council chamber on March 8, a Labour group proposal to save �200,000 from the East End Life budget has been accepted.

But the proposal also included a move to publish East End Life quarterly rather than weekly has not accepted: instead the existing review of East End Life continues and any decision on its frequency will be made once that is concluded in May.

Local Government Minister Eric Pickles has repeatedly targeted council newspapers in recent months and wants to tighten up the rules over spending taxpayers’ money on them.

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Last month, he said: “An independent local press is an essential part of our open democracy and it is a vital part of local accountability, but the rules around council publicity have been too weak for too long squandering public funds and pushing local newspapers out into the abyss.”

Elsewhere in the Tower Hamlets budget, the Mayor has also accepted Lib Dem proposals to dip into reserve funding for �1 million for apprenticeships and graduate initiatives over three years.

He will continue the Housing Link service, albeit with a 25 per cent reduction in funding, but will not replace Tower Hamlets Enforcement Officers with a police officer per ward, as Labour requested.

Lutfur Rahman said: “As a direct result of cuts to our funding from central government, we have to make some very difficult decisions regarding our finances.

“However, I believe that as a council, we have a responsibility to make sure we protect services for our vulnerable residents, and that all members should work together to agree a budget that is fair and continues to ensure local people get the support they need.”