Waltham Forest Council has lost a tax-payer funded judicial review against an order telling it to stop printing its newsletter illegally.

In April 2018, the Government issued an order to the authority, under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, instructing it to stop printing its Waltham Forest News newsletter more than the legally allowed four times a year.

But Waltham Forest Council’s leader Cllr Clare Coghill said the council would fight this order and the authority launched a judicial review against the Government’s decision.

Now, a judge has upheld the Government’s order and ruled the council is breaking the law in its current publishing processes, but the council still wants to appeal this.

According to an opposition councillor, to date the council has spent £27,800 of tax payers' money on court costs fighting the case, with a further £15,000 expected for the appeals process.

Councils are allowed to publish newsletters four times a year at the most to prevent “unfair competition with local newspapers” and to allow external scrutiny of council affairs to be maintained.

This is according to Alex Powell, a deputy director in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who wrote a letter expressing the terms of the Government order to Martin Esom, Waltham Forest Council’s chief executive.

In the most recent issue of Waltham Forest News, Cllr Coghill wrote: “I find it galling that not only have Government cuts meant that we have had £120 million stripped from our budget since 2010, but that now they have the audacity to tell us how we spend our money and communicate with our residents.

“This limits our ability to communicate with all our residents, particularly those who are hardest to reach or who don’t have regular internet access and who often have most need of our services and opportunities.

“We also know that residents love the fact that Waltham Forest News promotes topics that no other newspaper would ever do. I also passionately think that part of a healthy local democracy is local understanding of the operation of the democratic process, and effective communication is key to developing that.

“Local authority publicity is important to transparency and to localism, as the public need to know what their local authority is doing if they are to hold us to account. The absence of a well-read local media means that there is a legitimate need for Waltham Forest News.”

A council spokesperson confirmed an appeal against the judge’s latest ruling will be launched.

They said: “We did not take the decision to challenge the government lightly. We produce Waltham Forest News because the government, by law, insist councils pay to publish statutory notices in a printed newspaper.

“These rules mean local authorities currently pay £68 million in council taxpayers’ money to comply with these rules. Waltham Forest News was our way of complying that also helps us communicate with all our residents, particularly those who are hardest to reach.

“We know our residents appreciate a newspaper that champions both the people and the area, giving every household a vital guide to what’s going on and what’s great about Waltham Forest. We are therefore appealing the decision.”