The Department for Transport wants to abolish the ‘cost burden’ on local authorities of placing ads in the local press about traffic orders – public notices advertising roadworks or other traffic restrictions.
The Newspaper Society has requested a meeting with transport minister Norman Baker to discuss the proposal, which it fears will damage the local newspaper industry.
However, Hammersmith & Fulham Council head of comms Simon Jones said the Newspaper Society is ‘in cloud cuckoo land’, adding that the communication of roadworks can be done more effectively by using websites, social media and mobile phone technology.
Basildon Borough Council head of comms Cormac Smith added: ‘Any statutory requirement for councils to spend local taxpayers’ money to prop up the profits of large multinational publishing firms needs to be very carefully considered.
‘When money is very tight and more and more people have access to the internet, councils should be looking for the most cost-effective ways to keep residents informed.’
But Stephen Phillips, Tory MP for Sleaford and North Hyke-ham, said: ‘Many elderly people get their information only from the local press, do not have internet access and would not necessarily search for the information that local authorities currently have to publish.’
How I see it
Simon Jones, head of comms, London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
If the Newspaper Society really believes that the best way of letting residents know what is happening on their roads is by posting highly expensive and virtually incomprehensible ads, under the guise of the Road Traffic Regulation Act section 14 sub section 2 schedule 4, on page 89 of the Rochdale Bugle in small print, then it is in cloud cuckoo land.
We need to communicate roadworks but we can do this more effectively and cheaper using digital technology.
Local papers still have a role to play, which is why we have negotiated a deal with our local newspaper for space for us to provide traffic information in an easy-to-understand format.