Death Knell For Council Newspapers and Magazines?

But Council defends Around Ealing as value for money


Around Ealing Magazine

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The future of the council magazine Around Ealing is uncertain following Government plans to scrap many tax payer funded publications.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has outlined new proposals to stop councils publishing newspapers or magazines more often than four times a year and to prevent the hiring of lobbyists.

Hammersmith and Fulham has announced it will be replacing the council produced H&F news with an independent newspaper meanwhile neighbouring Hounslow Council has not produced a magazine since March and says it is reviewing the options for the future.

Around Ealing has continued to be distributed throughout the borough on a monthly basis.

A Freedom of Information request earlier in the year revealed the magazine cost £376,081 to produce and distribute (for the year ending 31.03.09).

A Council spokesperson says it represents value for money:

'' We are committed to communicating effectively with local people and our monthly magazine Around Ealing plays a key role. Research shows that it is by far the most preferred source of council information, with 76% of respondents saying it provides useful information about our services and 93% of recipients reading it regularly.

''We publish 137,500 copies each month and distribute to every home and business in the borough. The cost is six pence per copy including delivery. The council actively supports local newspapers including by paying to advertise all public notices.''

In recent years there has been a marked growth in the frequency and scope of council publicity techniques funded by taxpayers' money, whilst local independently owned media have struggled. This year saw the demise of Hounslow and Brentford Times after more than a century in print.

Mr Pickles believes that all council publicity should be clearly branded material, issued solely to explain services, and not to influence opinion.

He said: "An independent local press is an essential part of our open democracy helping local people scrutinise and hold elected councillors to account.

''The rules around council publicity have been too weak for too long allowing public money to be spent on wasteful town hall papers that have left many local media looking over the abyss.

''The proposals I am publishing today will close off these inappropriate practices and encourage councils to focus taxpayers' money on where it should be spent - protecting frontline services."

September 30, 2010