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One in 10 town hall Pravdas breach government code

One in ten taxpayer-funded council newsletters are routinely breaching of government guidelines designed to crack down on so-called town hall “pravdas”.

Despite ministers demanding councils publish every three months at most, official figures provided to Parliament reveals that 10pc go to press more often that that – with a small number flouting the rules completely and going out weekly or fornightly.

The announcement came in a Parliamentary written answer from Brandon Lewis MP, the Under-secretary of State for the Communities Department.

It comes after the government declared it would strengthen the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity guidelines as part of a new law to “prevent abuse of taxpayers’ money”.

Mr Lewis said: “Information from our recent consultation indicates that over three-quarters of local authorities produce a residents’ newsletter, with 10 per cent publishing more frequently than quarterly and a small number of local authorities publishing council newspapers on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

“This is notwithstanding the guidance in the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity that such publications should not be issued more frequently than quarterly.

“The Local Audit and Accountability Bill contains measures to address the continuing breaches of the code by this minority of local authorities, in order to help protect an independent free press and prevent the abuse of taxpayers’ money.”

He was responding to a question by Romford MP Andrew Rosindell, who asked about the extent to which local authorities continued to publish their own newspapers.

The Code was revised in 2011 in a bid to tackle aggressive council papers, ordering councils not to publish newspapers in direct competition to the local press, not to print them more than quarterly and only include material directly related to local services.

However some councils have continued to flout the code, including Tower Hamlets Council which publishes the weekly East End Life.

A spokesperson for the Newspaper Society claimed this type of publication “competes unfairly with independent newspapers for readers for readers and advertising revenues.”