New Law Could Ban Council "Propaganda"

By BethPH Last edited 70 months ago
New Law Could Ban Council "Propaganda"

Local councils could be banned from publishing their own newspapers more than four times a year under proposed new laws.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles issued guidelines in March 2011 under the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, requesting that councils reduce their publishing activities. While some local authorities have complied, it goes without saying that a few have ignored the guidelines. Pickles told the BBC that such publications were a “process of self-aggrandisement and self-publicity”, adding that it was “not a public service, it’s propaganda”:

“What we will do is we will put it on a statutory footing and we will stop these town hall Pravdas."

The local free press have found themselves competing for advertising and readers with council-published titles, which in some cases (Greenwich and Tower Hamlets, we're looking at you), come out as frequently as once a week or fortnight. In fact, Greenwich Time was reported to the District Auditor amid claims it was in breach of government guidelines on council publications.

Greenwich blogger 853 in particular notes the tub-thumping nature of GT, while Tower Hamlets residents told the BBC that their council's publication is 'a waste of paper'.

Is there a need for a council to spend millions of the budgets they regularly proclaim as inadequate on such frequent self-promotion? There's certainly a case for making information about the local authority freely available but one could argue that seeing it repeated on a weekly basis could become tedious and the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Labour-run Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Greenwich, Hackney and Barking and Dagenham all say they will resist cutbacks to their local publishing and continue to fill residents' letterboxes with recycling material.

Photo by siddharthkhajuria in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Last Updated 04 July 2012


Let's not forget that lots of elderly residents and poorer people don't have the internet. What you dismissively refer to as 'recylcling material' is the only way they have to find out what's going on on their neighbourhood. And will Pickles outlaw free Boris giveaways with the Standard? No. Of course not.


Be nice if this was reported in a balanced manner rather than just regurguitating the typical Pickles braggadocio.

No mention, for example, of the fact that by scrapping council 'pravdas' you'll effectively be forcing authorities to spend millions each year on advertising public notices in local newspapers - an archaic ruling that Pickles seemingly refuses to address.


Why not have the newspapers be online by default, and if (for any reason) you need a physical print version you can individually opt-in to a paper mailing list. It would drive down the number that needed to be printed, cut costs on distribution, ... ultimately it would be the best of both worlds.


There's nothing wrong with local authorities sending out four newspapers a year with details of their services for those who don't have the internet. What I do find objectionable is sending out weekly or fortnightly bulletins masquerading as newspapers which are little more than self-promotion exercises.


This rather unquestioning account misses out another curious feature of all this.  Pickles is the face of localism and the need for central government to stop interfering in local decision making. If decisions on how councils communicate with their residents can't be taken locally, and have to be overriden by legislative powers, it's hard to see what is left to be local.


How many people read these papers? A tiny tiny percentage of the population, because we all know they are advertising for the council. And i disagree with the comment that they are useful to old people. My mother, 79, throws hers straight in the bin. there is no news in the anyway. Just another example of unaccountable local councils squandering money on ego projects. many councils have long forgotten that their role is to serve their community, not themselves.