Waltham Forest Council has two weeks to explain why it 'clearly' breached the Publicity Code before the government considers legal action

Pickles serves notice on council freesheet

Eric Pickles has described the publicity sheets as a waste of taxpayers' money and "Town Hall Pravda"

Waltham Forest News breached the Publicity Code for not being impartial and continuing the fortnightly publication

First published in News
Last updated
East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter, covering Chingford, Highams Park and Woodford. Call me on 07795 476 625

Waltham Forest Council has been given a fortnight to explain why it ignored legislation to reduce the fortnightly publication of Waltham Forest News to quarterly.

Ongar MP and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, has written to the council and four others in London to formally notify them of the laws governing the Local Audit and Accountability Bill, introduced on March 30.

Last week, the council told the Guardian, it will continue publishing the controversial freesheet fortnightly, described by councillors and members of the public as 'labour party propaganda' until formally told otherwise by the government.

A spokeswoman said: "We have not received any formal communication from the government under the new legislation. We will consider our position when we do so."

Mr Pickles has now taken 'formal' action over what he describes as Vladimir Putin style 'Town Hall Pravda' and an alleged attempt to drive local newspapers "out of business" by writing directly to the council's chief executive Martin Esom.

The letter states: 'The Secretary of State hereby gives the local authority known as the London Borough of Waltham Forest notice of a direction that he proposes to give to the authority undersection 4A of the 1986 Act.

'The Secretary of State proposes to direct the London Borough of Waltham Forest to comply by no later than 1 May 2014 with all of the provisions of the Recommended Code of Practice on Local Authority Publicity issued under section 4 of the Local Government Act 1986 on 31 March 2011 having been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'

It also mentioned the council has 14 days to make written representations about the direction.

As a strong defender of the local press, Mr Pickles has said he is prepared to take further action against the council for its publication described as 'not even-handed'. 

He said: "It is scandalous that bloggers have been handcuffed for tweeting from council meetings, while propaganda on the rates drives the free press out of business. Only Putin would be proud of a record like that.

"Localism needs robust and independent scrutiny by the press and public, and municipal state-produced newspapers suppress that.

"‘Town Hall Pravdas’ not only waste taxpayers’ money unnecessarily, they undermine free speech.

"I have given written notice to councils most clearly breaching the Publicity Code, noting that Parliament has passed new laws to tackle this abuse.

"We are prepared to take further action against any council that undermines local democracy - whatever the political colour," said Mr Pickles.

He also added if councillors want to campaign and put out political literature, they should do it at their own cost.

Formal letters have been sent to the councils responsible for Greenwich Time, Hackney Today, the Newham Mag, and (Tower Hamlets) East End Life.

Waltham Forest Council has been contacted for a statement.

Comments (10)

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5:27pm Thu 17 Apr 14

Ferdy54 says...

Oh dear. How naughty,

I only read it for the Public Notices to see what stupid road scheme they're going to dream up next!!!! 20mph on a main road like New Road for a start!!!
Oh dear. How naughty, I only read it for the Public Notices to see what stupid road scheme they're going to dream up next!!!! 20mph on a main road like New Road for a start!!! Ferdy54
  • Score: 15

6:46pm Thu 17 Apr 14

Sam Hain says...

I take it this letter from Pickles counts as the 'formal notification' the council required and they will now go quarterly without further demur?
I take it this letter from Pickles counts as the 'formal notification' the council required and they will now go quarterly without further demur? Sam Hain
  • Score: 16

7:00pm Thu 17 Apr 14

NTiratsoo says...

It's been a memorable week for the Council really.

First it lost in court to the Christian kitchen - costing us thousands - purely because it failed to follow its own procedures.

Then, it was revealed to be unable to account for £50,000 paid to a private company; and unsure whether hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money given to the E11 BID Co. was monitored or not.

Now it's being deprived of its Pravda.

Chief Executive Martin Esom is paid way more than the prime minister and obviously worth every penny.

PS Sorry, I forgot the story about the Council no being able to account for 5 children in care, bless them.
It's been a memorable week for the Council really. First it lost in court to the Christian kitchen - costing us thousands - purely because it failed to follow its own procedures. Then, it was revealed to be unable to account for £50,000 paid to a private company; and unsure whether hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money given to the E11 BID Co. was monitored or not. Now it's being deprived of its Pravda. Chief Executive Martin Esom is paid way more than the prime minister and obviously worth every penny. PS Sorry, I forgot the story about the Council no being able to account for 5 children in care, bless them. NTiratsoo
  • Score: 31

7:01pm Thu 17 Apr 14

NTiratsoo says...

Sorry, I wrote 'week' but meant 'week or so'.
Sorry, I wrote 'week' but meant 'week or so'. NTiratsoo
  • Score: 9

7:07pm Thu 17 Apr 14

Howard Wolowitz says...

This will run and run unlike WF Pravda
This will run and run unlike WF Pravda Howard Wolowitz
  • Score: 5

8:45am Fri 18 Apr 14

stickmanny says...

Ferdy54 wrote:
Oh dear. How naughty,

I only read it for the Public Notices to see what stupid road scheme they're going to dream up next!!!! 20mph on a main road like New Road for a start!!!
If stupid drivers actually obeyed it this scheme of yours may well save lives.
[quote][p][bold]Ferdy54[/bold] wrote: Oh dear. How naughty, I only read it for the Public Notices to see what stupid road scheme they're going to dream up next!!!! 20mph on a main road like New Road for a start!!![/p][/quote]If stupid drivers actually obeyed it this scheme of yours may well save lives. stickmanny
  • Score: -1

10:37am Fri 18 Apr 14

Villagecranberry says...

This is a great move. Now save more money by encouraging foreigners coming to this land to learn English, by ceasing the provision of official documents and information sheets in the languages of the World except the language used in this country. Also, if people require an interpreter, let them have one, at their own expense. Interpreters are costing the taxpayer millions.
This is a great move. Now save more money by encouraging foreigners coming to this land to learn English, by ceasing the provision of official documents and information sheets in the languages of the World except the language used in this country. Also, if people require an interpreter, let them have one, at their own expense. Interpreters are costing the taxpayer millions. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -1

5:15pm Fri 18 Apr 14

stickmanny says...

What a surprise Pickles has sent his scary letters to five Labour councils. This is a political move.

If people don't like the way their council spends money they can vote them out. Its called local democracy and Pickles should keep his snout away from it.
What a surprise Pickles has sent his scary letters to five Labour councils. This is a political move. If people don't like the way their council spends money they can vote them out. Its called local democracy and Pickles should keep his snout away from it. stickmanny
  • Score: -19

9:50am Tue 22 Apr 14

Amanda Brodie says...

The Chartered Institute of Journalists is proud that our long-running campaign against these town hall Pravdas is finally on the statute book.
The situation with Waltham Forest came about because one of our members - who lives in the borough - brought it to the attention of Mr Pickles' office.
We have a proud history of defending members with workplace disputes as a trade union and of campaigning on wider media issues. Care to join us?
Find out more at www.cioj.co.uk
Amanda Brodie
Chairman Professional Practices Board
Chartered Institute of Journalists
The Chartered Institute of Journalists is proud that our long-running campaign against these town hall Pravdas is finally on the statute book. The situation with Waltham Forest came about because one of our members - who lives in the borough - brought it to the attention of Mr Pickles' office. We have a proud history of defending members with workplace disputes as a trade union and of campaigning on wider media issues. Care to join us? Find out more at www.cioj.co.uk Amanda Brodie Chairman Professional Practices Board Chartered Institute of Journalists Amanda Brodie
  • Score: 2

10:54am Tue 22 Apr 14

Howard Wolowitz says...

Just flicked through the latest copy, it hit my door mat this morning. Red Robbo gone into hiding unless he is in that mascot outfit as the fox.

Interesting to see article clamping down on "beds in sheds". Mr. Yousuf converted his garage into a self contained residential dwelling without planning permission.. He appealed it was rejected, but he has been allowed to keep it as a garage. No mention of fines or whether an eye will be kept on this property to make sure he abides with the decision.
Just flicked through the latest copy, it hit my door mat this morning. Red Robbo gone into hiding unless he is in that mascot outfit as the fox. Interesting to see article clamping down on "beds in sheds". Mr. Yousuf converted his garage into a self contained residential dwelling without planning permission.. He appealed it was rejected, but he has been allowed to keep it as a garage. No mention of fines or whether an eye will be kept on this property to make sure he abides with the decision. Howard Wolowitz
  • Score: -9

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