Council magazine could be cut in new legal clampdown

PUBLISHED: 10:52 03 January 2013


NORTH Somerset Council could soon be forced to reduce the number of times it publishes its North Somerset Life magazine.

The Government has confirmed it will introduce a law preventing council newspapers from being published more than four times a year.

North Somerset Life is currently published monthly and includes details on local events, achievements of residents or organisations, council schemes and noteworthy issues, as well as letters from residents.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles had previously introduced a voluntary code aimed at curbing what he has branded ‘town hall Pravdas’.

But some authorities have continued to flout the code, which aimed to restrict council papers to publishing four times a year.

Mr Pickles has now reaffirmed plans to give the code the force of law with a bill to be introduced in the next session of Parliament.

He said he plans to ban councils from publishing newspapers which actively compete with the local press.

Speaking at a Newspaper Conference lunch in Westminster, Mr Pickles said the bill would aim to stop what he called ‘a bunch of hardcore authorities’ who continued to publish council newspapers in competition with the local press.

North Somerset Life costs the council £233,868 per year to research, write, design, print and distribute to 91,255 homes.

The authority has always defended its publication, saying it saves money, is not in competition with newspapers and is a good way of communicating with residents.

A council spokesman said: “We have evidence that shows that people who regularly read the magazine are better informed about the different services the council offers and provides and it is also a cost-effective method of getting messages out to residents.

“If we were using adverts in other publications and printing more leaflets that would not be as cost-effective.

“It is not a vanity publication.”

Council leader Nigel Ashton added: “Mr Pickles’ comments are aimed at the many newspaper-style publications produced by some authorities. They include TV listings, advertising and very political articles - his comments were not aimed at publications like North Somerset Life.

“In fact I have sent Life to a number of MPs and ministers, as well as the LGA chairman - our magazine is what councils should be producing.”

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