In recent years there has been a major growth in the frequency and scope of council publicity techniques that use taxpayers’ money while local papers have struggled in a saturated news environment.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said:
“An independent local press is an essential part of our open democracy helping local people scrutinise and hold elected councillors to account.”
The new consultation proposes rules to stop municipal newspapers being published more than 4 times a year and to end the hiring of lobbying contractors. They also give more transparency and certainty to local authorities and political parties about conference stalls rules, for example, by distinguishing between the promotion of a local area for tourism purposes and the taxpayer-funded lobbying of politicians.
Mr Pickles added:
“The rules around council publicity have been too weak for too long allowing public money to be spent on frivolous town hall propaganda papers that have left many local newspapers looking over the abyss - weakening our free press - or to use ‘hired-gun’ lobbyists that operate in the shadows to bulldoze special interests through.
“The proposals I am publishing today will close off these inappropriate practices and make sure that councils focus taxpayers’ money on where it should be spent - protecting frontline services.”