The Commons' Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee issued a report yesterday focused on the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) proposal to cut the publication of council newspapers to four a year.
Chair of the CLG committee Clive Betts said: ‘We doubt that the proposed code should specify a maximum frequency of publication, especially in the context of the Government’s professed commitment to greater "localism".'
The proposals are part of DCLG’s draft Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity.
LGComms chair David Holdstock has welcomed the CLG committee’s recommendations, adding: ‘In its current form the draft Code of Practice for Local Government Publicity Code could penalise the majority of "good councils" and jeopardise effective communications between them and residents at a time when the role of communications has never been more vital.’
Chair of London Councils Jules Pipe, who is also mayor of Hackney, added: ‘We are pleased with the select committee’s conclusion that local authority publications are not competing with local newspapers – they are informing residents about services which affect their quality of life.’
In addition, Betts agreed with DCLG that the hiring of political lobbyists by local authorities was a ‘waste of public money’ but doubted that a code of practice on local authority publicity was the ‘correct tool by which to apply constraints’.
The select committee has called on the Government to commission an independent inquiry to quantify the competitive impact of council newspapers on the independent press; to review the publication rules that apply to statutory notices; and to develop a separate code of practice to govern the use of lobbyists by local councils.