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22.08.14

Seven councils accused of Publicity Code breach

Seven local authorities have been accused of breaching publicity rules designed to protect the free press through the publication of their newssheets.

The DCLG has asked Enfield, Hillingdon, Lambeth, Luton, Medway, Mid Devon and North Somerset councils to explain, within the next fortnight, what they now plan to do to ensure compliance under the Publicity Code.

The Code sets out a range of provisions in relation to local authority publicity, including the frequency, content and appearance of taxpayer-funded newssheets. This includes limiting publication to prevent competition with local newspapers, obliging councils to be cost effective and objective in any publicity material they publish.

Although council newssheets should not be issued more frequently than quarterly, this was the major area of non-compliance for the seven local authorities.

In particular, Lambeth, Luton, Mid Devon and North Somerset councils are said to have been delivering this material every month. And the local authorities in Hillingdon, Enfield and Medway have been accused of delivering this material every two months.

Local government minister Kris Hopkins said: “It has been suggested that some councils might not be complying with the Publicity Code. Newsletters, newssheets or similar communications should not issue more frequently than quarterly.

“Councils should now take steps to ensure publication in the future will be in line with the Code’s provisions.”

He has also warned that where the Secretary of State considers that there is a risk that in future a council will not be complying with those rules, he will be minded, in accordance with law, to issue a written notice of a proposed direction.

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