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Town hall ‘pravda’ faces fresh criticism

A council newspaper has been reported to the District Auditor for allegedly breaching government guidelines designed to clamp down on ‘town hall Pravdas.’

Greenwich Council’s publicly funded newsletter Greenwich Time is published every two weeks.

The Bexley Times reported that opposition leader Spencer Drury reported the freesheet, claiming it breaks rules on local authority publicity which came into force in March this year.

Thee code was introduced following calls from communities secretary Eric Pickles who felt the newsletters promoted council propaganda.

The code states that councils should not publish papers more than quarterly and they should not resemble commercial newspapers in style and content.

Mr Drury said:  “It is a disgrace in a modern democracy that this sort of propaganda is allowed to flourish at the expense of other local papers and subsidised by unsuspecting taxpayers.

“It seems to me that while some politicians like to see their views go unchallenged, only Greenwich spends taxpayers money to make this a reality.”

Greenwich Council’s cabinet decided last month to continue with the publication of Greenwich Time following a review of the title.

The council’s own officers describe the Pravda as being ‘written in a journalistic style, containing a degree of community news, certain lifestyle features and residents’ opinions.

A spokesman for Greenwich Council said: “In initiating a ‘call in’ of the decision on Greenwich Time, councillor Drury requested the council to ‘properly’ explore the production of GT every two weeks.

“This itself would have been in breach of the guidance set out by the new code and was rejected by the Scrutiny Committee.

“However, if he has any concerns a reference to the District Auditor is the correct and proper process to follow and the council will cooperate as it always does with any requests for information the auditor may make.”