Rule-breaking council mag which 'failed to reach' all residents faces axe

A controversial council magazine, produced in breach of government guidance aimed at protecting local media from unfair competition, is on the brink of closure after councillors narrowly voted in favour of scrapping it.

At a council meeting where the future of the tabloid-sized Wirral Views newsletter was on the agenda, councillors voted in favour of a motion to stop producing the free publication.

The motion stated: "Council notes that Wirral View newspaper has, to date, cost £402,000 of taxpayers’ money but continues to fail to reach all parts of the Borough."

It added: "Council further notes that the Authority has, itself, chosen to advertise in the independent, free local media rather than its own publication. Council therefore asks Cabinet to end its support for this publication."

Close contest

The motion, proposed by Conservative councillor Tony Cox, was carried by 31 votes in favour to 29 against at last month's council meeting.

The final decision now rests with council leader Pat Hackett, a Labour councillor, who is expected to decide on the monthly publication’s future by October.

Chequered past

Wirral View has been embroiled in controversy since it launched in October 2016, and plunged the council into a row with the then-local government minister, Marcus Jones, in 2017.

The council publication had been blamed for playing a part in the closure of the Wirral News, a local newspaper published by Trinity Mirror.

Jones reprimanded the council for ignoring government guidance on publicising its work – as council newsletter-type publications are not meant to be published more than quarterly to prevent unfair competition with local media.

Rules of engagement

Local authorities have a statutory obligation to pay careful attention to the Government’s Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, and the Secretary of State has the power to direct a local authority to comply with the Code.

Kevin MacCallum, Wirral Council’s head of comms, said: "The situation with Wirral View is that councillors passed a motion calling on the cabinet to scrap the publication. The Leader of the Council will make a decision on its future in the next couple of months."

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