The government intends to ignore both local councils and the House of Commons Select Committee on Communities and Local Government over local democratic engagement. Both have reacted in dismay to the government’s decision to limit direct communication by local authorities with their local citizens via free newspapers to only four times a year.
When journalists meet in Southport at the beginning of April for the NUJ Delegate Meeting, they will have before them a motion calling for the defence of council newspapers. The union’s Public Relations and Information Industrial Council rejects the argument that council publications are damaging the local “freebie” type newspaper. In fact, the claim that advertising revenue has been hit is refuted by those newspapers themselves.
When Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, compares local council newspapers to “Pravda and Soviet style” propaganda, it reveals his real thinking. The Select Committee responded by viewing the new centralising code as having negative implications for local democracy.
“We fear the impact of his onslaught will lead to important information about the impact of government cuts being concealed and curtail open debate,” says a motion for the NUJ meeting.