After a lengthy battle of wills, Tower Hamlets Council has published the last ever paper edition of East End Life.
The council’s weekly newspaper was one of the “Town Hall Pravdas” targeted by previous Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who saw them as propaganda sheets that cost the taxpayers.
The height of the battle was in the Lutfur Rahman regime when the former mayor made frequent appearances in its pages while other council figures, notably his rivals, were edited out the civic picture.
The new mayor, John Biggs, pledged to review East End Life in line with Government regulations and the new Communities Secretary Greg Clark has welcomed the “common sense” decision by Tower Hamlets Council to stop publication.
This followed a decision to install independent commissioners in the Town Hall to oversee many of the council’s financial operations which had been run to ruin by Mr Rahman, who was eventually banned from office.
The council will instead make most of their announcements online and via social media, and will supplement these with a magazine, Our East End, to be published quarterly. This is in compliance with the Government’s Publicity Code – saving taxpayers’ money and protecting the independent local press.
Mr Clark said: “East End Life was an unnecessary use of taxpayers’ money and undermined the much-needed independent local press.
“Council newspapers can and do have a role in informing communities about local services, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of the health of our local democracy.
“Today Tower Hamlets has made a common sense decision to comply with the Code, but we have strong rules in place to protect the press and if councils aren’t playing by the rules we won’t be afraid to step in.”
Mayor John Biggs called it an “end of an era” and told readers: “Some of your love it, others not. To replace it, we are sharpening up our communications including the use of the internet and new media.”
Another council which held out against Government rules – the Borough of Greenwich, has now agreed to be compliant with the Code.
- Local authorities should not publish newsletters or newssheets that look like commercial newspapers.
- Where news sheets are published they should only be published on a quarterly basis.
- Any local authority publicity should identify itself as such on the front page of the publication.