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Minister slams London newspaper’s council deal

A government minister has slammed a London newspaper’s agreement with a local council to publish advertorials on its behalf.

Earlier this month HTFP reported that the Labour-run Lambeth Council had awarded a £1m contract to the Southwark News’ monthly sister title Weekender to carry council-generated content.

This prompted a local councillor to object to the deal on the basis that it went against rules introduced earlier this year preventing councils from publishing newsletters more than four times a year.

Speaking on the BBC’s Politics Show broadcast at the weekend, minister for communities and local government Bob Neill said that the council was cheating on the system with public money.

He said in the vast majority of cases councils have been sensible and have abided by these guidelines but it seemed there are some cases of people who want to deliberately flout the guidelines and waste taxpayers money on what he called party political propaganda on the rates.

The newspaper’s joint managing directors Kevin Quinn and Chris Mullany also appeared on the programme. Mr Mullany said he hoped to work with the opposition on the council in order for them to have their imput on the advertorials.

Leader of Lambeth council Steve Reed said he would rather advertise online but it cost too much.

The council and newspaper had earlier rejected allegations made by Liberal Democrat councillor Jeremey Clyne that the deal was an attempt to circumvent new government rules to clamp down on council newspapers.