The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles is not a particularly subtle communicator. Last year, when announcing that he wanted to see an end to practice of local councils producing and distributing their own local newspapers he described his argument as follows:
Councils should spend less time and money on weekly town hall Pravdas that end up in the bin, and focus more on front-line services like providing regular rubbish collections. The previous Government’s weakening of the rules on town hall publicity not only wasted taxpayers’ money and added to the wave of junk mail, but has undermined a free press.
This week the DCLG Select Committee in the House of Commons rejected Mr Pickles’ proposals and stated that he needed more evidence that the actions of local councils was undermining local newspapers before he could regulate them.
In many ways this was a victory for localism over the centralising tendency of the DCLG when something irritates them and should be welcomed.
However, in many ways the debate over council newspapers is like that over free speech. Just because councils have the right to do something does not mean they should abuse that right.
Council run newspapers are, in my experience, a dreadful thing and here is why: (more…)