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Council set to defy ministers over ‘propaganda sheet’

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.


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  • April 10, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Never been convinced that this debate – whether in Waltham Forest or Birmingham – is anything other than frustration that a council isn’t putting its statutory notices and other advertising into the local media, but is using its own publication.
    If the council placed its (big/expensive) ads in the WFM, would the editor still be making a noise on this issue?

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  • April 14, 2014 at 8:24 am

    This newspaper editor accuses a council newspaper of propaganda. That is a bit rich coming for from an exponent of just that.

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  • April 14, 2014 at 10:44 am

    The infamous backroom deal between Thatcher and Murdoch,that lasted more than a decade,had a devastating negative impact on the standard of journalism in the UK. Murdoch’s share of the press and TV via his “popular culture” outlets has nurtured right-wing bigotry and negated the crisis of capitalism.His stranglehold on news meant he – and his chosen editor(s) front men -could decide what news was important and worthy,and what news nobody really ought to know about.During this period a holocaust took place in Indonesia,committed by a western backed dictator,armed with UK tax payer’s supplied weapons,that nobody even knew about.The carving up of Asia,by British and western business then led directly to the loss of most of UK manufacturing,and millions of slaves in Asia were put to work for western company profits.Now there are similar monopoly’s in local media,with companies like Archant – who have gradually taken over and bought out authentic local rags – in a position of supremacy.Now every billboard in every town now telling you how to think.Welcome to 1984.

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