A council’s plan to revive its in-house newsletter is set to be scrutinised today after a warning from government over its publication frequency.
HTFP revealed last week how the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had urged South Ribble Borough Council to show “due regard” for the department’s publicity code after the authority unveiled plans to produce three editions of its ‘Forward’ publication over the next six months.
Local authorities are told to publish newsletters no more than quarterly under MHCLG guidelines, while opposition Labour group councillors have also accused the council’s Tory administration of “gerrymandering” by reviving the newsletter, last published in March 2017, ahead of an election next spring.
The decision to produce editions of Forward in October, December and March has now been called in for further examination by the authority’s scrutiny committee, and will be discussed at a meeting today.
South Ribble Labour leader Councillor Paul Foster was one of five councillors to protest against the decision – citing the MHCLG guidelines and claiming the council’s cabinet also ignored the recommendations of a cross-party editorial working group on how the council should communicate with its residents and businesses.
Cllr Foster told the Lancashire Post: “The cabinet has completely disregarded what the working group decided – they didn’t even consult with it, and they didn’t consult with a cross-party editorial group which is there to ensure Forward is politically impartial and neutral.
“Considering the council hasn’t published one edition in the past 18 months, and is now planning three in five or six months ahead of next year’s election at great cost, it’s disgraceful.”
In response, council leader Mary Green denied Forward was a “party political publication”.
She told the Post: “Government guidelines are that councils produce four publications per year. Although there are councils that produce publications on a much more regular basis.
“Having said that, South Ribble Borough Council will be complying with the Government guidelines in this civic year and will be publishing three publications.
“We feel it is important to communicate with our residents and inform them of important events and essential information.”