A council fighting to retain its fortnightly newsletter in defiance of government rules has suspended publication of the title and confirmed statutory notices will now only be published in the local press.
The authority had previously lodged an application with the Court of Appeal after a High Court order that it ceased fortnightly publication of Hackney Today.
The council had previously ignored demands by the Communities Secretary that it should run the freesheet no more than quarterly, in line with government guidelines.
The authority has refused to confirm to the borough’s local democracy reporter Ed Sheridan how frequently Hackney Life will be published, or whether Hackney Today has been suspended temporarily or permanently.
But is has confirmed it won’t be using the new title for statutory notice which will now be published in the local press.
An editorial in Hackney Life reads: “To try to ensure that as many people as possible continue to be aware of the events, opportunities and services available to them in Hackney, we are publishing Hackney Life.
“In accordance with the government’s direction, it will focus on providing information, not news, and statutory notices are now being published in the local press.”
Said Ramzy: “I believe the existence of a fortnightly council freesheet in 2019 is a significant obstruction to genuine local newspapers – not just by taking away advertising but perhaps more significantly by fooling time-pressed readers into thinking they’ve already had their local news and therefore don’t need to pick up the Gazette or the Citizen.
“I welcome the decision by Hackney Council to suspend publication of Hackney Today while it considers its position, but I’m disappointed that this turn of events needed the intervention of the government, which is obviously not an ally we would ever choose.
“Despite the existence of Hackney Today, the Mayor of Hackney has been a vocal champion of the Gazette and Citizen. I share, and am encouraged by, his oft-stated belief that a thriving local press is essential to a healthy democracy.
“I am confident that both Hackney’s local papers will now prove more than adequate for the council to get its own messages to the public, while continuing to fulfil the vital function that Hackney Today could not: that of holding the Town Hall to account.”
Added Keith: “It would be remarkable if central government decided to deliver door to door a fortnightly newspaper full of positive stories to all UK residents.
“It is also remarkable that a local council should continue its efforts to do the equivalent – at taxpayers’ expense and, as Mrs Justice Andrews pointed out, to do this to the detriment of the local press.
“Regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming appeal in defence of the council’s freesheet, the Hackney Citizen will continue to report as thoroughly as possible on council matters in the interests of local democracy.”
A Hackney council spokesperson said: “We can confirm that the council has lodged an appeal and a stay application to the Court of Appeal.
“We will consider our options after the Court of Appeal has heard our applications and provided us with an outcome.”
Ed has previouslyreported the council has so far incurred £33,281 in legal costs fighting for the right to publish its newspaper fortnightly.