Wirral Council Defies Government With Council Paper Launch
Wirral Council is facing a growing backlash after becoming the first local authority to launch a monthly council newspaper since Government guidelines designed to protect independent local press from unfair competition were introduced.
Ministers have roundly condemned council papers which such as the newly launched Wirral View with the previous Communities Sectary Greg Clark describing them as “an abuse of public funds” and pledging to enforce the local authority publicity code which states that council papers should be published no more than quarterly to avoid competing with independent local press.
Most council papers such as East End Life and Greenwich Time have closed down or moved to quarterly publication following a sustained campaign by the News Media Association and its members and action to enforce the publicity code by the Government.
The Wirral Globe reported Lib-Dem Wirral councillor Stuart Kelly as saying: “I am disappointed that this council-sponsored newspaper has chosen to include news stories about two politically contentions issues – the Ofsted inspection of children’s care services and the proposal to change bin collection arrangements – without opposition parties being able to contribute their thoughts.
“This publication is just a ratepayer-funded mouth piece for Labour cabinet members to spin Wirral’s inadequacies without challenge.”
Conservative group leader Cllr Jeff Green said: “As predicted this ‘propaganda on the rates’ vanity project has gone out of its way to put the best possible spin on several very political decisions. I am particularly concerned the cabinet member for children’s services has been given a platform to defend their abysmal Ofsted inspection without challenge.
“This was precisely our concern all along and we will be sending this ‘Town Hall Pravda’ to the Department for Communities and Local Government highlighting the many ways it has breached the Government’s publicity code.”
His colleague Cllr Chris Blakeley said: “The front page alone contains a disingenuous and misleading Labour headline about their ‘free’ fireworks display. The display is costing £60,000 of taxpayers’ money – there is nothing remotely ‘free’ about it. What a shame the Labour leader Phil Davies is away on his two-week trip to China the week his newspaper came out. And what a shame his newspaper didn’t care to mention that fact.”
A representative from the Department for Communities and Local Government told the Globe last week: “Spending on council newspapers undermines the independent free press. We have been clear we expect all councils to comply with the local government publicity rules. If they do not we will consider what further action to take.”
Wirral Council wasting tax payers’ money publishing Town Hall Pravda and undermining local free press https://t.co/pwVEDlD3I3
— Henry Faure Walker (@FaureWalker) 26 October 2016