Archant editor slams Audit Commission's council freesheet findings

A senior newspaper editor has hit out at the Audit Commission's findings on council freesheets for failing to carry out a 'thorough analysis'.

Audit Commission: slammed
Audit Commission: slammed

Archant East London Newspapers' Malcolm Starbrook spoke to PRWeek following the Audit Commission's letter to Minister for Digital Britain Stephen Tibbs on 28 January, which stated that money spent by councils on free public-ations was 'not unreasonable'.

Starbrook said: 'The Audit Commission has not done a thorough analysis across the UK. The Newspaper Society has lobbied Parliament that the Office of Fair Trading should be looking at the structure of these councils - how they're funded and what business plan they have. I don't know why the commission isn't doing that.'

The commission's chief executive Steve Bundred wrote in the letter that local authorities were not wasting or misusing money and that few were in a position to attract local advertising, one of the major complaints made by media companies. But the commission admitted there were limits to what was included in the councils' published financial information and recording was not consistent between councils.

The Newspaper Society, which represents regional and local media, called for a meeting with the Government immed-iately after the letter's release.

Chair of the CIPR's local public services group Ashley Wilcox responded: 'I suggest the Newspaper Society works with the CIPR and other representative groups to develop an approach where we can work together for the benefit of our communities.'

The commission found that more than 90 per cent of English councils publish a periodical, almost all of which are published once a month or less frequently.

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