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Fresh call for public to report ‘pravdas’

A London MP wants the public to report councils that continue to flout Government guidelines on how often they publish newspapers.

Grant Shapps, MP for Welwyn Hatfield, and Minister of State for Housing & Local Government, said it was unacceptable’ for council newspapers such as East End Life and Greenwich Time to continue competing aggressively with independent local newspapers despite a crackdown on the practice earlier this year.  

The Government guidelines stipulate that local councils should not publish newspapers in direct competition to the local press, and that they should not appear more frequently than quarterly and should only include material directly related to local services.

The code was introduced following calls from communities secretary Eric Pickles who referred to the newspapers as ‘pravdas’ because they contain council propaganda.

But some councils have defied the rules by continuing to publish newspapers which breach the Code.

Mr Shapps told PR Week: “It is unacceptable that Labour councils are trying to push independent local newspapers out of the market in a bid to stop scrutiny of their spending.

“This choreographed attack on free speech by Tower Hamlets and Greenwich has no place in a modern democracy.

“These papers exist to promote personal political agendas and not the interests of the public and I urge local residents to report these publications to the district auditor.”

Greenwich Time, published by Greenwich Council, is one of the most frequently published newspapers by a council with 48 editions a year. This month the council will review whether to continue publishing its weekly newspaper.