Waltham Forest Council Pledges to Continue Publishing Fortnightly Newspaper

Waltham Forest Council has said it will continue to publish its £440,000-a-year fortnightly newspaper despite Government warnings that it must bring the publication into line with guidelines designed to rein in aggressive council papers.

Waltham Forest Council is one of nine councils served with written notices by the Communities Department because they are still publishing fortnightly or monthly freesheets – in breach of Government guidelines which state that council publications should be published no more frequently than quarterly.

Waltham Forest Council is spending around £440,000 a year to publish the free Waltham Forest News 23 times a year, the Waltham Forest Guardian reported.

Waltham Forest Conservatives group leader, councillor Matt Davis, said: “It is being disingenuous when it suggests it is saving money, it is just not true. This is against government guidelines and a gross waste of taxpayers’ money.

“The council needs to stop screaming about terrible cuts but then wasting money on this. I am disappointed that the Government has come up with these guidelines but is not enforcing them, I will be writing to the Secretary of State to ask him to enforce the rules.”

In December, Communities Secretary Greg Clark told a Newspaper Conference lunch: “I certainly can reaffirm my commitment to enforce the publicity code.  It is completely unacceptable that council taxpayers’ money should be used to provide unfair competition to commercial businesses that you represent.

“It’s an abuse of public funds to do that, I’ve been very clear that I won’t stand for it and that all councils have to abide by the publicity code. In the case of Tower Hamlets, they have agreed to become compliant …. and I hope very much that Greenwich will follow suit.”

A Waltham Forest Council spokesman said: “In March 2015, the Secretary of State wrote to the council giving notice of the direction he proposed to issue in relation to the frequency of the publication of Waltham Forest News.

“In response, the council outlined why Waltham Forest News – which reaches all 97,000 households in our borough – is legally compliant and provides the best value for money for local taxpayers opposed to the Government’s insistence that we pay to publish statutory notices in a frequently published newspaper. To date, there has been no further correspondence between the Secretary of State and the council.”