Greenwich council’s newspaper Greenwich Time reported to District Auditors for “breaking new guidelines”
10:07 15 September 2011
Greenwich Council’s publicly funded newspaper has been reported to the District Auditor for allegedly breaking new guidelines.
Leader of the Opposition on Greenwich Council Spencer Drury reported the weekly Greenwich Time, claiming it breaks the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity which came into force on March 31 this year.
The Code states that councils should not publish papers that “seek to emulate commercial newspapers in style and content”, they should not appear more than quarterly, they should be objective and balanced and avoid anything likely to be perceived by readers as constituting a political statement.
Mr Drury said: “In my opinion Labour justifies GT with a fig leaf of financial jiggery-pokery.
“Greenwich remains a one party state with its own ‘pravda’. It is a disgrace in a modern democracy that this sort of propaganda is allowed to flourish at the expense of other local papers and subsidised by unsuspecting taxpayers.
“It seems to me that while some politicians like to see their views go unchallenged, only Greenwich spends taxpayers money to make this a reality.”
Greenwich Council’s cabinet decided on August 30 to continue with the publication of Greenwich Time.
In his letter on September 4, Mr Drury wrote: “The Council’s own officers describe Greenwich Time as ‘written in a journalistic style, and contains a degree of community news, certain lifestyle features and residents’ opinions.
“I can’t think of a better description of a newspaper which emulates a commercial newspaper in both style and content than that offered by officers of GT.
“I would also argue that under section 30 of the Code, GT is not clearly identified as a product of the Council and many people believe that it is a genuine local newspaper.
“GT fails to take an objective stance with regards to its ability to explain the Council’s policies.
“I do not believe that GT represents value for money for the people of Greenwich and I consider it to be a huge waste of money.”
A spokesman for Greenwich Council said: “In initiating a ‘call in’ of the decision on Greenwich Time, councillor Drury requested the Council to ‘properly’ explore the production of GT every two weeks.
“This itself would have been in breach of the Guidance set out by the new Code and was rejected by the Scrutiny Committee.
“However, if he has any concerns a reference to the District Auditor is the correct and proper process to follow and the Council will cooperate as it always does with any requests for information the District Auditor may make.”