A Government minister has written to council leader Lib Peck threatening action over the borough’s free Lambeth Talk magazine.
In a letter dated August 15, Local Government minister Kris Hopkins suggests that the monthly magazine, published by the council and delivered to every home in the borough, breaks rules set down by Secretary of State Eric Pickles limiting such freesheets to four per year.
The letter adds: “I would ask you to now take steps to ensure publication in the future will be in line with the Code’s provisions… Where the Secretary of State considers that there is a risk that in future a Council will not be complying with the Code he will be minded to issue, in accordance with the statute, a written notice of a proposed direction.”
The Publicity Code sets a range of provisions in relation to local authority publicity including the frequency, content and appearance of so-called taxpayer-funded “newssheets.”
A council spokesperson did not say how the council planned to respond, but told the Blog: “Lambeth Talk plays an important role informing residents about council services and events.”
[…] Kris Hopkins wrote to Lambeth in August warning them that the magazine, delivered to every household in the borough , was in breach of […]
I think Lambeth Talk is a well-drafted and useful publication – but the obvious and cheaper way to get round such draconian restrictions is to have a much-improved Council website. After all it works well for the Brixton Blog and many others!
If the National Government started producing its own free National Newspaper, using public money, people would be outraged. Why should local Government be any different?
Lambeth Talk informs residents what is going on right on their doorsteps and how they can become involved. It has covered events from the Lambeth Fair, Streatham Festival, the newly opened Black Cultural Archive Centre, local events, photography competitions, local markets and historical events in the Borough. It details how residents can get involved locally such as the snow warden scheme afew winters ago or the recently launched street champions. A quick flick through the July edition had articles on apprenticeships, cycle training, healthy finances for households and Norwood Leisure centre. These are not single party articles. The only real political piece is the Leaders column but then again there is nothing to stop the opposition in Lambeth submitting an article or two if they could be bothered. Lambeth Council is extremely good at getting the message across to residents and if they were doing wrong why has the electorate returned them with an even larger majority and virtually wiped out the other parties. If the Tories or Liberal Democrats were in power in Lambeth they would do exactly the same with a magazine. And they did. A quick search shows that the previous incarnation Lambeth Life cost £123,000 in 2004-5 and £159,000 in 2005-6. Who were in charge of Lamerh Council then, the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Coalition. The ‘Do as I say not as I do’ attitude does not sit well with the electorate as the recent local elections and by-election in Lambeth proved. Unfortunately the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Lambeth still need to heed that lesson and until they do they will be consigned to opposition for the 2018 and 2022 local elections. I wonder if the Minister writing to the Leader of the Council has even read the magazine, furthermore could he explain why it was alright to deliver the magazine when his party was in charge (2002-2006) but not now Labour are in charge?
When does news become propaganda? A thin line which a council, of whatever political persuasion, should not be meddling in. Lambeth, please support your local free press.
Lambeth talk is conveying a message to local residents. Since propaganda is mentioned, is it really the case that there is no propaganda at all where they never promote their own agenda in the local press? The local press (free or paid for) may not like this publication for numerous reasons especially if it has an impact on their readership figures, but that is not the fault of the Council.
Tim Sutton is correct on all counts.
I don’t think this has anything to do with lobbying from ‘big regional press groups’.
The laws were introduced to stop Councils producing their own propaganda rags at our expense. The defunct Lambeth Life was an atrocious publication blatantly promoting the council’s agenda and events.
Lambeth should be encouraging local independent news publications (such as Brixton Bugle), not competing with them.
Also, much of the information in Lambeth Talk is already freely available on their web site or other council literature so why waste all that money?
Fair point well made Mr Sutton. I am all for the likes of Brixton Bugle esque publications to be more widely utilised and circulated.
I also agree with you in terms of council biased propaganda should not be allowed to this degree,
Well, there yougo. Who said debate cannot be healthy and affect a change of opinion..
I hereby withdraw my earlier comment. I also table a vote to put Mr Sutton forward as the proposed editor in cheif of the ‘non’ council run publication weekly 🙂
Anon – very flattering, but I will leave it to the good people at the Brixton Bugle who are doing an excellent job already.
… and of course the local web news such as Brixton Blog.
Bit late to the fray but as a resident and local magazine publisher I agree entirely with Tim Sutton.
It is soooo obvious, that the big regional press groups such as archant and newsquest are lobbying govt to implement this block on council publications… This is nothing short of yet another example of Central government capitulating to the needs of the private sector
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