Publicity rules force councils to cut news publications

About 100 councils will be forced to cut the frequency of their news publications as a result of stringent local authority publicity rules, it is estimated.

Going independent: H&F News
Going independent: H&F News

Local authorities are being made to reduce the number of publications to four a year as a result of the revised Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, released last week.

Approximately 50 local authorities will have to scale down by one or two issues, while another 50 will have to stop publishing at least three issues a year, figures from LGComms have revealed.

Hardest hit will be Tower Hamlets’ East End Life, which is a weekly title, and Greenwich Council’s Greenwich Time, which has 48 issues a year. Industry figures hit out at the new rules. PRCA chief executive Francis

Ingham said: ‘Eric Pickles dubs council newspapers  "Pravdas".  But his desire to dictate how councils behave means that he is the one looking like Stalin.’

LGcomms chair David Holdstock was also concerned (see below).

However, Hammersmith & Fulham Council has revealed plans to get around Pickles’ new limitations by transferring the fortnightly publication of H&F News to an independent news provider, a brief that is now up for tender.

About 250 councils will not be affected the new code – 30 local authorities that do not publish a title and a further 220 that publish four times or less a year.

HOW I SEE IT

David Holdstock
LGcomms chair and Hillingdon Council head of comms

We all want to see a successful and vibrant local media and agree that it is absolutely essential that the workings of town halls are scrutinised and elected representatives held to account.

But these proposals will limit councils’ ability to communicate in the most appropriate and cost-effective way about local issues that matter to people.

Worryingly, it seems the consultation fails to address the issue of councils publishing public notices in newspapers, a requirement that could result in tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money being spent on propping up the local newspaper industry.

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