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Town hall Pravdas under fresh attack from government

The government has renewed its attack on ‘town hall Pravdas’ after it emerged one council has tendered for a £20million contract to print council-run papers for other authorities.

Brandon Lewis, under-secretary at the Communities Department, criticised Tower Hamlets Council for encouraging other councils to ‘waste cash’ on what he labelled “propaganda.”

According to the East London Advertiser, the council – which publishes the free weekly paper East End Life – announced recently that it would be tendering for a four-year contract to print publications for London borough councils including Hackney and Newham.

Mr Lewis described the move as “astonishing” – and warned it was damaging to the concept of a democratic and free press.

“Councils should be looking to cut out waste and unnecessary spending to help pay off the deficit inherited by the last administration, including stopping weekly Town Hall Pravdas,” he said.

“Yet it is astonishing that Tower Hamlets is actively encouraging councils to spend up to £20m of taxpayers’ money on more propaganda on the rates.

“By continuing to publish so-called newspapers such as East End Life, Tower Hamlets are not only misusing public funds, they are ultimately damaging local democracy and an independent, free press.”

His comments come just weeks after he criticised Tower Hamlets Council in Parliament for “a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and mismanagement of council staff and resources.”

He revealed that the government was currently drawing up plans to introduce new laws to govern local authority publications, describing them as a “corrosive abuse of taxpayers’ money.”

The contract framework also includes plans to develop electronic versions of council publications and smart phone apps.

Tower Hamlets Council’s opposition Tory group leader Cllr Peter Golds was the one who alerted the government to the tendering contract.

He said: “Importantly, if the underlying legislation were to be changed by Parliament, and it will be, and a council knows that in advance, then there would be no recourse to compensation if subsequently their contracts were rendered unlawful expenditure by that legislation.

“We shall be warning all printers that the moment it can be done the contract will be terminated”.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Council publications play a vital role in supporting community cohesion and raising awareness of services for residents.”

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  • March 1, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Can we be spared any more of this humbug from Local Government Minister Eric Pickles & his team on so-called “town hall Pravdas”? The main reason that many local authorities have had to publish their own titles is because the incompetant owners of the UK’s local papers cut back journalist levels so much that there is little or nothing in our titles that will encourage people to buy them.

    Instead of sucking up to the Top 12 owners (the Dirty Dozen) Pickles & his team should tell them to properly resource their local papers at professional rates of pay so they are full of local government news. Then our town halls wouldn’t need to produce their own freesheets.


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