Public Sector: Pickles prompts backlash

DCLG's move to limit freesheets comes under attack.

The chair of an influential Commons select committee has hit out at the Government's decision to disregard his committee's advice over council freesheets.

Last week, the Department for Communities and Local Government revised the rules on council-run publicity.

Labour MP and communities and local government select committee chair Clive Betts told PRWeek: 'We're disappointed the DCLG insists that local authorities can't communicate with their residents more than four times a year. There's no evidence on which this was based.'

Councils pointed out that the select committee criticised proposals to curb the frequency of publications last month. It also suggested that a code of practice was not the 'correct tool by which to apply constraints' on hiring political lobbyists.

LGcommunications chair David Holdstock has called for a review, saying the DCLG's decision could result in 'tens of millions of pounds of tax payers' money being spent on propping up the local newspaper industry'.

Mayor Jules Pipe, the chair of London Councils, added: 'We are well aware of the need for guidelines, but these new rules are at best anti-localist and at worst worthy of North Korea.'

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced the revised rules last week, insisting they had previously been 'too weak for too long, squandering public funds and pushing local newspapers into the abyss'.

HOW I SEE IT

Ashley Wilcox, Chair, CIPR local public services group

Council publications are a tried and tested communication tool that reach hard-to-reach groups.

The new rules leave us with an even greater challenge as to how to communicate what is happening in councils and other local public services.

During these challenging times, residents need our services more and need to be informed how we can help improve their quality of life.

Public sector communicators are used to challenges and finding creative and innovative ways to communicate.

But whatever we do, there is still a massive gap and the problem is that residents who need our services most are going to miss out.

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