MPs have been highlighting concerns about plans to remove the requirement on councils to advertise road works in local papers.
Traffic orders – public notices advertising road works or other traffic restrictions – are worth around £20m a year to the local press – but ministers are keen to allow local authorities to advertise them on their own websites to save money.
The Department of Transport has already received 100 letters objecting to the plans and MPs have continued to raise their concerns during Parliamentary debates.
Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland said the plan would mean information being “hidden away on local authority websites” as well as loss of revenues for the local press.
He told MPs: “I accept that we are not in the business of subsidising local newspapers and that taxpayers should not pay for advertising in that sense. However, we should not be in the business of encouraging local authorities to compete against newspapers by taking that advertising revenue away from those newspapers and putting things on their own websites.
“Local authorities will probably spend the money on developing a newer and better local authority website or newer and better local authority propaganda.
“The local community does not want that. It wants access to transparent information. The key message is that if public funds are used, the money should be spent on advertising in local newspapers, not on simply producing propaganda.”
Therese Coffey, Suffolk Coastal MP, added: “Local papers are very important for democracy and holding representatives to account and for conducting campaigns, which he has mentioned. Taking away some of their regular revenue puts more papers at risk.”
A consultation on the plan is due to end on 23 April.