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Council newspaper curbs in Queen’s Speech package

The long-heralded legal crackdown on so-caled ‘town hall Pravdas’ finally looks set to make it onto the statute book.

Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, setting out the government’s legislative programme for the coming Parliamentary session, included measures designed to stop council newspapers competing with the free press.

Ministers said the Local Audit and Accountability Bill would “deliver the Coalition Agreement pledge to impose tougher rules to protect the independent free press from unfair competition by town hall newspapers and propaganda.”

The Bill will give legal force to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, initially introduced in a bid to limit the frequency of council publications to four a year, but ignored by councils which have contuinued to publish them fortnightly or monthly.

Commenting on the Bill, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “This government is reining in the quango state, saving taxpayers’ money and giving more power to local people.

“This bill extends the government’s localism agenda – ensuring robust scrutiny of council spending, strengthening the role of direct democracy and protecting an independent free press.”

The proposal has been strongly supported by the Newspaper Society, which speaks for the local and regional press.

In response to an earlier consultation on the proposed Bill, the NS urged the government to bring forward and implement legislation on enforcing the publicity code as soon as possible.

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  • May 9, 2013 at 10:42 am

    This is a welcome move to prevent local authorities controlling the local news agenda to their advantage.

    It’s disappointing however that the Government has had to legislate against the few remaining councils that are going against the code, rather than those councils acting responsibly as most local authorities have done. The councils are causing a waste of ministerial and civil service time when they should just take a sensible decision to stop immediately.

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