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Newspaper denies breaking rules on ‘town hall Pravdas’

An independently-owned London newspaper has fought back against claims by a local councillor that it is trying to get round new rules designed to clamp down on council propaganda.

The Southwark News is currently in a dispute with Liberal Democrat councillor Jeremey Clyne over its coverage of Lambeth Council.

The Labour-run council has awarded a £1m contract to its monthly sister title Weekender to carry council-generated ‘advertorial’ content.

Cllr Clyne says this goes against government regulations introduced earlier this year preventing councils from publishing newsletters more than four times a year.

The council deal would see the expansion of the free Weekender title to also cover Lambeth, a move that Mr Clyne feels breaches the new rules.

Lambeth Life, the council’s fortnightly newsletter, ceased publication in March as a result of the code introduced in January.

The proposal will see the newspaper providing  ‘advertorial’ space to the council in return for the income the paper would receive for publishing statutory notices and advertising the council’s services.

Cllr Clyne said that the two full pages of advertorial will ‘appear to most readers as newspaper articles.’

However, joint managing director Kevin Quinn said Mr Clyne’s objection was unfounded: ” He has got slightly confused. It’s not editorial, it’s advertorial and will clearly be marked as advertorial.”

He said the Southwark News was one of only two independent newspapers in London and the paper had won a tender to cover statutory notices.

He added the paper already covered areas of Lambeth, including Brixton and Waterloo but they would soon cover the whole area.

“We are really excited about it.’ he said ‘We launched a 100 in 100 apprenticeship campaign in Lambeth last week. Most people are excitied about it, I’m hoping Cllr Clyne will be too.” added Kevin.

Southwark Newspaper Ltd is a growing independent newspaper group, with both weekly paid for and free newspapers that cover the London Borough of Southwark.

The council has so far rejected the allegations, urging the deal to go ahead as previously agreed. The matter will be decided by the council scrutiny committee on Thursday.