Waltham Forest council's refusal to limit freesheet 'pathetic and absurd' says Bob Neill MP

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Waltham Forest News is published fortnightly and delivered to every home in the borough Waltham Forest News is published fortnightly and delivered to every home in the borough

Waltham Forest council’s refusal to abide by the law and restrict publication of its fortnightly free sheet is “pathetic and absurd”, according to a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party.

Despite being told by the Government to only publish Waltham Forest News quarterly, and being aware of a change in the law regarding council publicity, the authority has said it will continue with current distribution arrangements.

The new law, which introduces a raft of restrictions on town hall publications, is designed to stop taxpayers’ money being used to promote political parties and safeguard an independent local press.

But the council has said it will not act until it has received clarification on the law from Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

This is despite Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities, Brandon Lewis, recently writing to council leader Chris Robbins to tell him he must scale back the publication.  

The council’s stance has brought a wave of criticisms from opposition councillors. 

Now Conservative vice-chairman (local government), Bob Neill MP, has waded into the row.

He said: “This pathetic and absurd excuse just shows that Labour aren’t interested in trying to save money and would rather continue wasting hardworking people’s money on their unnecessary and costly town hall Pravda. It shows that when it comes to spending money wisely you can’t trust Labour.”

Conservative group leader, Cllr Matt Davis, also slammed the council’s stance and warned it could face a costly legal challenge.

He said: “Perhaps they're waiting on David Cameron to knock on the door for them to listen?

“Any reasonable person would take advice from the government and stop it now.

“The council saying they will continue is wrong. How many more taxpayer funded court cases do they want to lose?”

"Waltham Forest News is a waste of taxpayers’ money. It is leaching money away from local businesses such as other publications which have served the community for decades.

"It has a limited role to play in today's society and is totally biased in favour of Labour. It constantly promotes everything as wonderful when it is not and you never see a Conservative or Lib Dem councillor.

"The council talks a great deal about supporting local businesses and could quite easily publish statutory notices in its local paid-for newspaper but it is actively working against it.

He also described the council’s claim that Waltham Forest News is the most effective way of publishing notices, such as planning applications as “nonsense”.

Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Bob Sullivan, said the council’s stance undermines its credibility as a legislating and prosecuting authority.

He added: “It is sheer arrogance on behalf of the Labour group and they could not care less about legislation.” 

"The fortnightly tabloid is just part of the Labour council’s propaganda machine which we have been campaigning against for years.

“The money saved could easily cover the cost of say fully re-opening of Harrow Green Library.

"The borough has a long established local weekly newspaper, and a couple of free-sheets, so why does the council need to produce a paper at taxpayers’ expense?

“With the web, email and targeted information leaflets, there is just no need for it," said Mr Sullivan.

A council spokeswoman said “Following the passage of the Local Audit and Accountability Bill, the Secretary of State now has the power to require local authorities to comply with all, or parts, of the Code.

"A letter received from the Department for Communities and Local Government last week states that he is currently considering how he will use the new powers given to him.

"The letter about the Code from Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis was advisory and does not seek to propose a direction.

“If the Secretary of State chooses to issue a direction, local authorities and others will be given the chance to make representations before he makes a final decision.

"As the legislation gives the Secretary of State considerable discretion we will consider our position when we have further information and until such time, are required to continue to have regard to the Code as we do at present.”

Comments (5)

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1:17pm Fri 11 Apr 14

mdj says...

Is this Council spokeswoman by any chance Shifa Mustafa, who told local investigator Nick Tiratsoo that all payments made to and by the E11BID were fully accounted for, and then had to admit that large sums had no contract documentation at all?

If this spokesperson is a legally-qualified official of the Borough, why the anonymity? These are public servants, employed by us
If they are not the Council's legal adviser, why are they speaking on this topic at all?

'He also described the council’s claim that Waltham Forest News is the most effective way of publishing notices, such as planning applications as “nonsense'
Doing this in order to save advertising costs would be a very valid justification for WF News: however, they do no such thing! Many applications go unadvertised, in defiance of the law.
Doing so would still not comply with the law, since the adverts must appear in 'a newspaper circulating in the locality'; there are legal definitions of a newspaper that WFNews cannot meet, and would never wish to.

The Council's attitude is akin to saying that they will only obey the speed limit when they get a ticket. They bring themselves into disrepute.
Is this Council spokeswoman by any chance Shifa Mustafa, who told local investigator Nick Tiratsoo that all payments made to and by the E11BID were fully accounted for, and then had to admit that large sums had no contract documentation at all? If this spokesperson is a legally-qualified official of the Borough, why the anonymity? These are public servants, employed by us If they are not the Council's legal adviser, why are they speaking on this topic at all? 'He also described the council’s claim that Waltham Forest News is the most effective way of publishing notices, such as planning applications as “nonsense' Doing this in order to save advertising costs would be a very valid justification for WF News: however, they do no such thing! Many applications go unadvertised, in defiance of the law. Doing so would still not comply with the law, since the adverts must appear in 'a newspaper circulating in the locality'; there are legal definitions of a newspaper that WFNews cannot meet, and would never wish to. The Council's attitude is akin to saying that they will only obey the speed limit when they get a ticket. They bring themselves into disrepute. mdj
  • Score: 19

1:25pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Alan_1976 says...

mdj wrote:
Is this Council spokeswoman by any chance Shifa Mustafa, who told local investigator Nick Tiratsoo that all payments made to and by the E11BID were fully accounted for, and then had to admit that large sums had no contract documentation at all?

If this spokesperson is a legally-qualified official of the Borough, why the anonymity? These are public servants, employed by us
If they are not the Council's legal adviser, why are they speaking on this topic at all?

'He also described the council’s claim that Waltham Forest News is the most effective way of publishing notices, such as planning applications as “nonsense'
Doing this in order to save advertising costs would be a very valid justification for WF News: however, they do no such thing! Many applications go unadvertised, in defiance of the law.
Doing so would still not comply with the law, since the adverts must appear in 'a newspaper circulating in the locality'; there are legal definitions of a newspaper that WFNews cannot meet, and would never wish to.

The Council's attitude is akin to saying that they will only obey the speed limit when they get a ticket. They bring themselves into disrepute.
Indeed mdj. The simplest of those legal definitions that it can't meet is that it is Free. Free newspapers do not count as "newspapers of general circulation".
[quote][p][bold]mdj[/bold] wrote: Is this Council spokeswoman by any chance Shifa Mustafa, who told local investigator Nick Tiratsoo that all payments made to and by the E11BID were fully accounted for, and then had to admit that large sums had no contract documentation at all? If this spokesperson is a legally-qualified official of the Borough, why the anonymity? These are public servants, employed by us If they are not the Council's legal adviser, why are they speaking on this topic at all? 'He also described the council’s claim that Waltham Forest News is the most effective way of publishing notices, such as planning applications as “nonsense' Doing this in order to save advertising costs would be a very valid justification for WF News: however, they do no such thing! Many applications go unadvertised, in defiance of the law. Doing so would still not comply with the law, since the adverts must appear in 'a newspaper circulating in the locality'; there are legal definitions of a newspaper that WFNews cannot meet, and would never wish to. The Council's attitude is akin to saying that they will only obey the speed limit when they get a ticket. They bring themselves into disrepute.[/p][/quote]Indeed mdj. The simplest of those legal definitions that it can't meet is that it is Free. Free newspapers do not count as "newspapers of general circulation". Alan_1976
  • Score: 16

2:07pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Techno3 says...

The only purpose of Waltham Forest news is to provide propaganda to ensure an incumbent's advantage to the Labour Party in council elections. It certainly isn't to keep people fully informed about any breaches of the law, corruption, waste, ideological spin or mismanagement at the council.
The only purpose of Waltham Forest news is to provide propaganda to ensure an incumbent's advantage to the Labour Party in council elections. It certainly isn't to keep people fully informed about any breaches of the law, corruption, waste, ideological spin or mismanagement at the council. Techno3
  • Score: 20

6:26pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Howard Wolowitz says...

Robbins & co. acting like a bunch of Canutes. The tides coming in guys, prepare to get wet.
Robbins & co. acting like a bunch of Canutes. The tides coming in guys, prepare to get wet. Howard Wolowitz
  • Score: -1

11:15pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Villagecranberry says...

They are ignoring opinion because the money is not coming out of their own pocket
They are ignoring opinion because the money is not coming out of their own pocket Villagecranberry
  • Score: 2

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