Council launches monthly newsletter 'to inform residents' in breach of government rules - Press Gazette

Council launches monthly newsletter 'to inform residents' in breach of government rules

Wirral Council has launched a monthly newsletter in direct contravention of government guidelines, with opponents calling it “propaganda”.

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s publicity code, councils can only publish in-house titles every quarter in order to protect local media from unfair competition.

A DCLG spokesman said: “Spending on council newspapers undermines the independent free press. We have repeatedly been clear we expect all councils to comply with the local government publicity rules.”

Wirral Council’s head of communications Kevin MacCallum said the council was responding to criticism about not communicating well enough with its residents.

“It’s almost impossible for the council to do its job well if its main customers, Wirral residents, do not know what services it provides and what help is on offer,” he said.

“We’ve been able to get this done without increasing what we spend on communications by a penny.

“Simply diverting advertising costs away from other channels has enabled us to massively increase our ability to communicate with residents.

“It is a solid business case, and I hope people will find Wirral View useful and informative.”

DCLG minister Marcus Jones said he pressed the council in August not to go ahead with the project. The government department added it is considering taking further action against the council.

The first issue of Wirral View came out last week. Conservative opposition councillor Jeff Green called the publication “propaganda” after members of the council’s Labour cabinet were given the opportunity to speak freely on controversial issues.

Wirral is served by Newsquest-owned paid-for weekly the Wirral Globe, which has an average total circulation of 98,196 copies according to the latest ABC figures, as well as the Trinity Mirror-owned Liverpool Echo, which launched its Wirral edition in 2013.

In 2011, a series of exclusives by the Globe helped prompt a damning report into the culture and ethics of its local council.