William Eichler 07 November 2017

Two London councils accused of breaking publicity rules

The Government has threatened two London councils with court action, claiming they are breaking publicity rules by publishing their newspapers ‘too frequently’.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid yesterday issued directions to Hackney and Waltham Forest councils telling them to stop publishing their papers fortnightly or risk court action.

The Publicity Code, the Government’s guidance for councils to follow with regards to publicity, recommends local authorities do not put out a newspaper more than quarterly.

The aim of this restriction is to ensure local newspapers do not face unfair competition.

Waltham Forest and Hackney have previously received written notices from the communities secretary indicating his intention to issue directions. They now have 14 days to comply.

‘An independent free press is vital for local democracy and it’s important that we support them in holding local leaders to account,’ said Mr Javid.

‘Councils shouldn’t undermine local democracy by publishing their own newspapers more often than quarterly.

‘While the majority of councils abide by the Publicity Code, Hackney and Waltham Forest have ignored repeated requests to stop publishing their council newspapers so frequently.

‘In the interests of local democracy, I will therefore use my powers to require them to do so.’

In response, a Waltham Forest Council spokesperson said: 'Waltham Forest News reaches all 97,000 households in our borough and is a valuable, cost-effective, way of communicating with our community.

'It also fulfils our obligation to publish statutory notices - as opposed to the Government’s insistence we pay other newspapers to do that.

'We will now carefully consider the Government’s directive before deciding the best way forward for the residents and businesses we serve.'

A Hackney Council spokesperson said: 'We have received the notice from DCLG and we are carefully considering our options.'

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