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Should Welsh Government toughen up on Council newspaper rules too?

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Even some of the most hardened anti - Tory residents in RCT will have applauded an announcement by Conservative Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles that he is to clamp down on Council newspapers in England. The Guardian reports that Mr Pickles is determined to stamp out Councils who use their taxpayer funded newspapers to peddle political messages. This is something that the Labour administration in Rhondda Cynon Taff have long been accused of.
Mr Pickles reportedly 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,
"If councillors and political parties want to campaign and put out political literature, they are very welcome to do so, and it's an important part of our democratic process. But they should be using their own money, rather than [that of] taxpayers."
Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell thinks this is an attitude that should be adopted in Wales too.
"When asked what cut backs they think should be made the public appear overwhelmingly in favour of cutting the Council's 'Outlook' magazine completely.
"It is exactly the type of propaganda rag that the English Secretary for Communities and Local Government is talking about. It provides a relentless stream of Labour messaging. No opposition Councillor ever appears in the magazine, and there have been countless blatant political attacks on the Westminster Government."
The view puts Cllr Powell and his RCT colleagues at odds - not for the first time - with party colleagues at the National Assembly. Welsh Liberal Democrat Local Government spokesperson and Swansea Councillor Peter Black has in the past argued against such controls on what local councils can publish saying it is a matter for them to decide. He argued that
"Councils have to publish a lot of statutory notices and the councils are saving a fortune by putting those statutory notices into their own newspapers rather than having to pay to put them in the local paid-for newspaper."
Councillor Powell says that this is a valid point, but that it is not an excuse to use public money for political messaging.
"There are some very good examples of Council newspapers out there - Swansea Council for example produced a very informative paper that refrains from the overt political statements that the RCT 'Outlook' is packed with.
"If the Labour party in RCT want to put out their message to the public then they should pay for it."

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/apr/17/eric-pickles-local-authorit...

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