Of­fi­cial warn­ing that mag is too fre­quent

Gov­ern­ment min­is­ter await­ing coun­cil re­sponse about breach of code

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Deb­o­rah King ed­i­to­ri­aluxbridge@trin­i­tysouth.co.uk

THE gov­ern­ment has stepped up the pres­sure on Hilling­don Coun­cil to re­duce the fre­quency of pub­li­ca­tion of its mag­a­zine, Hilling­don Peo­ple.

There are cur­rently six is­sues of the mag­a­zine each year and it is de­liv­ered free of charge to homes across the bor­ough.

Kris Hop­kins, min­is­ter for lo­cal gov­ern­ment, sent a warn­ing let­ter to the coun­cil last week. In it he says he con­sid­ers Hilling­don Peo­ple to be in breach of the Code of Prac­tice on Lo­cal Au­thor­ity Pub­lic­ity, which states that lo­cal au­thor­ity mag­a­zines should not be is­sued more than once a quar­ter.

Eric Pick­les, Sec­re­tary of State for Com­mu­ni­ties and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, who is Mr Hop­kins’ boss, has de­scribed the mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers printed by some lo­cal au­thor­i­ties as ‘Town Hall Prav­das’ – Pravda be­ing the name of the Rus­sian news­pa­per as­so­ci­ated with the Com­mu­nist Party.

Mr Hop­kins’ let­ter gives the coun­cil un­til Fri­day this week to re­spond. Hilling­don told the Gazette it is con­sid­er­ing its re­sponse and would not com­ment fur­ther for now.

The Code of Prac­tice on Lo­cal Au­thor­ity Pub­lic­ity is de­signed to en­sure that pub­lic­ity is law­ful, cost- effective, ob­jec­tive, even-handed, ap­pro­pri­ate, has re­gard to equal­ity and di­ver­sity and is is­sued with care dur­ing pe­ri­ods of height­ened sen­si­tiv­ity.

A num­ber of other Lon­don coun­cils have been is­sued with letters warn­ing that they are in breach of the code, in­clud­ing Tower Ham­lets, En­field, Green­wich, Lam­beth and Ne­wham.

In his let­ter, Mr Hop­kins said: “In­for­ma­tion avail­able to the Sec­re­tary of State in­di­cates that your coun­cil is pub­lish­ing a lo­cal au­thor­ity news sheet, Hilling­don Peo­ple, ev­ery two months.

“Such a pub­li­ca­tion would not com­ply with the pro­vi­sion in the pub­lic­ity code that where lo­cal au­thor­i­ties do com­mis­sion or pub­lish news­let­ters, news sheets or sim­i­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tions, they should not is­sue them more fre­quently than quar­terly.

“As you know, the great ma­jor­ity of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties com­ply with the pub­lic­ity code. The pro­vi­sion in re­la­tion to fre­quency of pub­li­ca­tion 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 fa­cil­i­tate the cre­ation of an en­vi­ron­ment which is as con­ducive as pos­si­ble to the flour­ish­ing of the in­de­pen­dent lo­cal me­dia, an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of any ef­fec­tively op­er­at­ing lo­cal democ­racy.”

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