The future of one of the country’s most controversial council-run newspapers could be in doubt after the authority which runs the publication called for a review of its cost-effectiveness.
Tower Hamlets currently spends around £300,000 each year on its publication East End Life but is to consider proposals including abolition and reducing frequency of delivery to save money.
The paper, which also raises over a £1m per year in local advertising, is one of a handful of council-run titles singled out by local and regional newspaper groups as contributing to the industry’s decline.
The editor of the East London Advertiser Malcolm Starbrook has been a particular critic, arguing that it presented unfair competition to his paper.
The Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, has now called on council officials to examine ways news about council services is disseminated into the community.
Rahman said: “East End Life helps the Council fulfil its duty to communicate with residents and many rely on it for information on lettings.
‘But in these tough times we need to be sure that all our services are providing value for money.”
The thorny issue of council-run papers seemed to be heading for some kind of resolution last year when communities minister Eric Pickles outlined his intention to stop council taxpayers’ money being spent on “frivolous town hall propaganda papers”.
However, the Commons Local Government Select Committee threw a spanner in the works last week by questioning a number of Pickles’s proposals.
MPs said today his proposals have ‘potentially negative implications for local democracy’and therefore called on the Government to commission an independent inquiry to quantify the impact of council papers on the independent press.