In a piece on the changes, the Courant says the Gazette has a “negligible readership” in its core circulation area, and that no public notices have been placed by the county council in its editions since 9 December.
Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman, pictured above left, told the Courant: “I am very concerned by this shocking revelation. The county council must be transparent and accountable. I would remind the council’s leadership they are public servants, and as such accountable to the public.
“Local newspapers have a duty to inform people of what is happening in our government, in our local councils, in our schools, and on our streets.
“Even the perception they are being somehow punished for doing so by the council or anyone else is deeply worrying. Local independent newspapers are at the very heart of local democracy.”
The council says the policy had been adopted on a trial basis to cut costs and maximise administrative efficiencies, and that free copies of the Northumberland Gazette would, in future, be left in two prominent locations in Hexham.
Chief executive Steven Mason said these measures, plus the availability of the notices on
e’s website, satisfied legal requirements.
He added: “While the authority has sought to make use of new and innovative ways of increasing its revenue base, which has attracted much criticism in recent times, the majority of which is unreasonable and unfounded in my opinion, there is still the need to consider what it can do to minimise spend wherever possible while at the same time acting wholly within the confines of prevailing legislation.
“As far as the placement of public and statutory notices are concerned the council is only too aware of the requirements it faces in this regard.”
HTFP has approached the Northumberland Gazette for a comment.