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Editorial bosses hit out at plans to remove public notice requirements

Gavin Thompson 2023Editorial leaders have criticised plans to scrap laws requiring councils to publicise council tax changes in newspapers.

The Welsh Government wants to remove the requirement on councils to issue public notices of council tax changes in printed newspapers, instead requiring them only to publish a notice on their own websites.

But representatives of leading publishers say themove will harm public interest journalism in Wales, with one regional daily editor warning of “catastrophic unintended consequences.”

They spoke out as Senedd members took evidence on the Local Government Finance Bill which contains the controversial provision.

John Griffiths, who chairs the Senedd’s local government committee, said the annual spend on council tax-related notices has been estimated at about £33,000 across Wales.

But Gavin Thompson, regional editor at Newsquest, said six of the group’s ten local newspapers in Wales would have been loss-making last year without public notice revenue.

Newsquest employs around 182 people in Wales and publishes regional dailies the South Wales Argus and The Leader, along with weekly titles such as the Barry and District News, Penarth Times, and the Free Press Series.

Gavin, pictured, who is also editor of the Argus, warned that the clause “would have catastrophic unintended consequences for the local newspaper sector in Wales”.

“As a business, we would not be able to continue printing loss-making titles,” he warned.

“It would mean fewer journalists and fewer journalists in Wales. It would also mean that Wales has a worse climate for local news than England.

“What we need is the Welsh Government and the Senedd to support local journalism – and to not make it more difficult to produce.”

He told the hearing the proposals would “set a worrying direction of travel” for other public notices, such as for planning or licensing.

Steffan Rhys, audience and content director at Reach, which owns the Western Mail, South Wales Echo, North Wales Daily Post and WalesOnline, also raised concerns about the proposals.

He said: “If you remove the requirement to put public notices in print titles, you are removing that information from a certain part of the public – there’s no two ways about it.

“You’re also removing revenue from publishers, that means publishers are able to do less journalism and that means the public is even less informed, so it’s almost a circular effect.”

“The more challenged revenues of news publishers become, the more difficult they are going to find it to produce that sort of public-interest journalism that Wales really needs.”

However Rob Taylor, founder of, argued that the legal requirement was an indirect subsidy propping up the industry.

The requirement for notices to be published in print means digital only titles, such as, do not get income from public notices.