A local council which publishes a fortnightly newspaper is set to defy government plans limit them to quarterly publication.
New ministerial guidelines which took effect on 30 March are designed to crack down on so-called “town hall Pravdas” by restricting them to four editions a year.
But Waltham Forest Council in North London is continuing to publish its Waltham Forest News fortnightly, despite protests from a journalists’ union.
The taxpayer-funded publication reportedly costs more than £480,000 a year to produce and has been branded “unadulterated propaganda” by one weekly newspaper editor.
The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) originally raised the frequency of the council-run Waltham Forest News with the Department for Communities and Local Government.
It followed a complaint by CIoJ member Janice Shillum Bhend who lives in the borough.
She claims that a letter had been written by parliamentary under-secretary of State Brandon Lewis to Waltham Forest council leader Chris Robbins telling him the publication should be less frequent than fortnightly.
However the council said it had received no “formal” communication from the Government and would continue to publish the newspaper fortnightly until it did.
According to Janice, Mr Lewis’s letter stated: “It has been suggested that your council might not be complying with the publicity code. I can see no reason for any council not to comply – non-compliance would, I believe, invariably involve an unacceptable waste of taxpayers’ money and council resources.
“I would suggest therefore that you take steps to ensure that your council is in compete compliance with the provisions of the code.”
But a Waltham Forest council spokesman said: “We publish Waltham Forest News fortnightly to ensure we regularly communicate with over 97,000 households as the Government insists that we pay to publish statutory notices in a printed newspaper and this is the most cost effective way to publish them to every household in the borough.
“The council is mindful of the statutory guidance for publicity. We have not received any formal communication from the Government under the new legislation. We will consider our position when we do so.”
Tim Jones, editor of the Waltham Forest Guardian, described the Waltham Forest News as “self-serving” and in “nobody’s interests.”
Tim said even the quarterly publication of Waltham Forest News would be regarded “by many as a misfortune” adding: “To continue to publish it twice a month would look like carelessness.
“This self-serving publication is in nobody’s interests, least of all local council tax payers who fund the £482,000 annual running costs.
“Is publication even in the council’s interests? Our own readers tell us they have long seen Waltham Forest News for what it really is – unadulterated propaganda.”
Nobody was immediately available to comment for the Department for Communities and Local Government.