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Minister raps council over newsletter after weekly’s closure

A local authority has been reprimanded over its failure to comply with government guidelines on council publications after the closure of a local newspaper on the same patch.

The Wirral News published its final decision this week after publisher Trinity Mirror said its local market had become “increasingly overcrowded” since the launch of council newsletter Wirral View.

The newsletter, delivered free to all homes in the borough, is published monthly despite the government’s Publicity Code saying council publications should come out no more than quarterly.

Now local government minister Marcus Jones has written to the Wirral Council leader to remind him of the guidelines.

Wirral News

The Code, which was brought in by the former communities secretary Eric Pickles during the Coalition governmemt, is specifically designed to guard against unfair competition with local newspapers.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said: “Councils should not undermine local democracy by publishing their own newsletters more often than quarterly.

“The vast majority of councils comply with the rules and Local Government Minister Marcus Jones has written to the Leader of Wirral Council to remind him about the Publicity Code.”

However the council has denied that Wirral View, which was launched last October, was a factor in the closure of the Wirral News.

Head of communications Kevin MacCallum said: “We are disappointed to see a well-loved local title like the Wirral News close…We must make it clear, however, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest Wirral View had any commercial impact on the Wirral News.”

“We think there is a place for free, not-for-profit community and public service information in a print format. It does not compete with the local independent media, nor does it impinge on their business or ability to attract advertising. They are entirely different products.”

He added: “We are aware we are departing from one provision of the code – in relation to the frequency of Wirral View – but we feel our case is strong enough to justify this decision, and we have put that case to Government a number of times as part of positive discussions over the past year.”

Trinity Mirror said last month:  “The Wirral marketplace has become increasingly crowded with free print products with now even Wirral Borough Council producing a monthly free print publication themselves.

“We believe that there is no longer a viable, scalable or long-term future for free/giveaway print products within the Wirral marketplace.”

5 comments

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  • July 10, 2017 at 9:54 am
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    So the local council is only refusing to comply with one provision of the code – so that’s alright then! The only problem is it’s a pretty major provision despite what the council spokesman would claim – namely one edition a month instead of quarterly.

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  • July 10, 2017 at 10:11 am
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    Oh, come on. The reason local papers close is because they do not give their readers the service they used to. I live in an area of about 150,000 people where the local paper does not have ONE reporter
    on the patch. It can’t work and it doesn’t. And the editing is grim.

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  • July 10, 2017 at 10:36 am
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    This is more about a council taking the opportunity to raise two fingers to a pitifully weak government, than the closure of a local newspaper. The council knows that absolutely nothing is going to happen about this.

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  • July 10, 2017 at 2:42 pm
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    Let’s be honest it’s very little to do with the councils own newsletter which is a different matter altogether, ,it’s simply TM cannot sell enough advertising to make it viable as there are many others in the market.
    Their commercial review is much needed with them reporting print losses of 21% ytd already
    Lose the quality and lose the market and you’ll soon lose the advertisers too, simple fact of life and nothing to do with the councils offering.

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