Councils have been warned they could face court action if they continue to publish their own newspapers in defiance of new government rules.
Local government and communities secretary Eric Pickles told regional political journalists this week he was considering judicial review proceedings against councils who flout the new publicity code designed to clamp down on ‘town hall Pravdas.’
The guidance issued earlier this year states that local authorities must not publish newspapers more than four times a year to prevent council taxpayer’s money being used to promote their local politicians and policies.
Speaking at a Newspaper Conference lunch, Mr Pickles was asked if anything could be done about local authorities such as Tower Hamlets Council and Greenwich Borough Council which both still publish weekly newspapers.
He replied: “I suspect the longer it goes on the more cocky and unreasonable they will be. I think judicial review is possibly the thing that councils have to face.
“I came to a view that local newspapers produced by local authorities were effectively squeezing the market out and I wanted to try and ensure that there was some scrutiny.”
However Mr Pickles added that it was possible to count on one hand the authorities who have been “utterly unreasonable” in continuing to publish their own titles.
Earlier this month HTFP reported that Lambeth Council had been accused by a local councillor of breaching the guidelines by awarding an £1m advertising deal to the Southwark News which will see the newspaper carrying regular advertorial for the authority.