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January 22, 2014

Bill to restrict ‘town hall Pravdas’ passes its final Parliamentary hurdle

By Darren Boyle

A Government bill to crack down on "town hall Pravdas" cleared its final parliamentary stage yesterday.

The Local Audit and Accountability Bill passed through the House of Lords last night without a vote and only now requires Royal Assent.

Under the plan, ministers will have the power to block local authorities from publishing a free-sheet newspaper or magazine that they deem too political.

The new regulations also guarantee the right of journalists and bloggers to live Tweet and even film council meetings.

The new Bill will also abolish the Audit Commission while allowing councils to appoint their own auditors.

Several amendments to the Bill had earlier been made in the House of Commons. These were accepted by peers last night without a vote.

Communities and Local Government Minister Baroness Stowell of Besston said the new legislation “increases local accountability and transparency”.

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She added: “It helps local people to hold councils and local bodies to account for their spending decisions and it is the final step in a programme of reforms to local audit that will result in an estimated £1.2 billion of savings over 10 years."

The Labour Party has warned that the new rules give Government ministers far too much power when it comes to regulating council publications.

They also criticised the plan to abolish the Audit Commission claiming this will reduce transparency.

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