Government Investigates Local Authority Over Council Newspaper

Officials are investigating a London local authority over concerns that its magazine could be breaching rules designed to protect local news media from unfair competition.  

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Minister Lord Greenhalgh said officials were looking into concerns regarding Haringey Council’s magazine Haringey People which is “published six times a year and is distributed to all households in the borough,” according to its website.

The News Media Association led a sustained campaign highlighting the damage taxpayer-funded propaganda papers do to independent local news media which resulted in new rules being brought in to protect the local press from unfair competition by ensuring council publications are published no more than quarterly. 

However, some councils, mainly in London, challenged the new rules forcing the government to take legal action against them. In August 2019, a High Court judge found that restricting council papers promotes freedom of expression when he dismissed two London authorities attempts to challenge the rules. 

In a written question, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Featherstone asked what steps the government planned to take to ask Haringey Council to conform with the Publicity Code in the regularity of its magazine publications.

Lord Greenhalgh responded: “The Publicity Code is statutory guidance that local authorities must have regard to when producing publicity, defined as ‘any communication in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or a section of the public’.

“The Secretary of State has the power to direct local authorities to comply with the Code if needed.

“My officials are looking into concerns regarding Haringey Council’s magazine publications, and a senior official will take up the matter directly with the Council’s Chief Executive in the first instance.

“We will keep this matter under review.”

Local Government Chronicle reported that a Twitter poll conducted by the council indicated that most thought Haringey People should only be published once a year and a number of the responses indicated they thought the magazine should cease to be published altogether.