Government Seeks Reassurance From Wirral Council over Council Newspaper Plans

The Government has sought reassurance from Wirral Council that any plans to publish a council newspaper would comply with the guidelines for  local authority publicity, citing the importance of creating an environment in which local media “an essential element of any effectively operating democracy” can flourish.   

As reported in the Liverpool Echo, Minister for Local Government Marcus Jones MP has written to council leader Councillor Phil Davies seeking reassurance over the council’s plans following reports of plans to launch a monthly newspaper.

The Minister wrote: “As you know the great majority of local authorities comply with the provisions in the Publicity Code – the provision in relation to frequency of publications has been designed to ensure that in each locality the independent local media does not face unfair competition. In short, the purpose of that provision is to create an environment which is as conducive as possible to the flourishing of the independent local media, an essential element of any effectively operating democracy.  

“It has been suggested in recent press reports in both the Municipal Journal and the Liverpool Echo that Wirral Council are considering publishing a monthly newsletter. Such a publication would not appear to comply with the provision in paragraph 28 of the Publicity Code which provides that “where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly.”

“I would be grateful therefore if you could provide me with reassurance that Wirral Council will comply with the provisions of the Publicity Code when considering how it communicates with residents.”

The NMA has campaigned hard on the issue of council newspapers, highlighting the damage they can do to independent local media, prompting the Government to take action to rein them in.