Waltham Forest Council has defended its controversial publicity sheet and says it will continue to publish fortnightly until formally told otherwise.

The taxpayer-funded Waltham Forest News costs around £500,000 per year to produce, and as of March 30 the new Local Audit and Accountability Bill only allows quarterly publication.

This week Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, wrote to council leader Chris Robbins telling him the publication must be wound down, but the authority does not regard the correspondence as "formal".

“The council is mindful of the statutory guidance for publicity,” an authority spokeswoman told the Guardian.

“We have not received any formal communication from the government under the new legislation.

“We will consider our position when we do so.”

The bill turned guidance, ignored by many councils including Waltham Forest, into law, giving the secretary of state power to make local authorities comply with the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity.

The code states: “Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly.”

The new law is aimed at protecting local newspapers from taxpayer-funded competition.

The council spokeswoman added: “Waltham Forest News is an effective and efficient way to deliver the council’s powers and duties to inform residents about council services and decisions.

“We publish Waltham Forest News fortnightly to ensure we regularly communicate with over 97,000 households as the government insists that we pay to publish statutory notices in a printed newspaper and this is the most cost effective way to publish them to every household in the borough.”

Mr Lewis’ letter stated: “I can see no reason for any council not to comply (with the original guidelines) – non-compliance would, I believe, invariably involve an unacceptable waste of taxpayers’ money and council resources.

“I would suggest therefore that you take steps to ensure that your council is in complete compliance with the provisions of the code.”