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NS Requests Meeting with Norman Baker Over Damaging Transport Notice Proposals

The NS has requested a meeting with Transport minister Norman Baker to discuss the regional press industry’s deep concerns about proposals to remove the requirement for traffic orders to be published in a local newspaper.

MPs and councillors across the UK have voiced their unease about the plans which, if enacted, would undermine the public’s right to know and damage the local media industry.

In a letter to the Under-Secretary for Transport this week, the NS said the proposals were driven entirely by cost saving and could result in councils posting controversial notices on an obscure part of their website away from the public’s gaze.

The letter, from communications and marketing director Lynne Anderson, said: “The regional and local press is the eyes and ears of the public at a local level. People look to their local paper and its website to keep them informed and to hold public bodies to account on their behalf. There are countless stories about local campaigns and protests which were sparked following publication of public notices in the local newspaper.

“The NS believes that removing the mandatory requirement for local authorities to publish statutory notices such as traffic orders in newspapers is likely to lead to a more secretive, less open government and to many grass roots issues being decided without proper consultation and debate.

“If this proposal came into effect, not only would councils be encouraged to rely on cheaper but less effective information channels, undermining the public’s right to know, such a move would further damage the local media industry, cutting off an important revenue stream at a critical time when it is tackling some of the worst commercial conditions in memory.”

Politcians have expressed their fears about the plans. Stephen Phillips, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, said he feared the new system would prevent some from accessing vital information.

He said: “I don’t think it’s a very good idea. In a patch like mine, many elderly people get their information only from the local press – they don’t have internet access and would not necessarily search for the information which local authorities currently have to publish anyway.

Greg Knight, MP for East Yorkshire, said: “I do think advertising in local newspapers is the appropriate way forward and this should override any question of cost.”  

Linda Riordan, MP for Halifax, said it was “essential to consider that not everyone has access to local council and Government websites and therefore often rely on the local press for information on such issues.” She said she would consider the proposal “with a view to recommending its rejection.”

Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, said local press was “absolutely essential for local democracy and is an invaluable part of any local community” and that he wanted to consider the effects the proposals could have on the industry. 

South Holland District councillor Nick Worth said: “In my personal opinion if public notices did not appear in newspapers it would be a nightmare because they are vital in letting people know when there is a road closure so they can then plan accordingly.

“I could see people getting aggravated if they are out and about and just find a road they wanted to use is closed.”

The NS is the voice of Britain’s local media, the UK’s most trusted medium. It represents 1,100 newspapers, 1,700 websites and other print, digital and broadcast channels.