The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is to legislate on council publications including newspapers and magazines as local authorities such as Stoke-on-Trent, are accused of ignoring government guidance on the use and abuse of such publicity using taxpayers money, City Independent leader, Cllr Dave Conway has been told in a letter.
Cllr. Conway wrote to the government minister over allegations Stoke-on-Trent City Council was using its magazine, “Our City” outside of the governments guidance.
The City Independents have also accused Stoke-on-Trent City Council of using its magazine to influence voters in a recent by-election, despite the guidance and rules covering elections, which was reported on PotteriesEYE on the1st August 2012 and repeated in the Sentinel last week.
Eric Pickles issued the guidance (Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity) when the coalition first came into office in order to address the growing cost and use of council newspapers and magazines to promote their own success and that of the controlling political party at the taxpayers expense, but appears to have lost patience with local government on the issue.
The letter says that Labour run Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s magazine:
should be as objective as possible, concentrating on the facts, explanation or both and that, in general local authorities should not issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters.
Mr Pickles adds:
We are now aware that a few councils are not acting within the code. We are therefore going to legislate to put compliance with the publicity code on a statutory basis.
The government is now set to implement a legal obligation for council to comply with the code next year.
Cllr Dave Conway, who received the reply from the Minister said:
Well, this goes for Stoke-on-Trent and ALL authorities that think they can just blaitantly , especially when a council is in purdah (election period), try to influence voters by putting out such propaganda magazines.