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Pickles Warns that Councils Which Publish 'Newspapers' Could face Judicial Review

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has suggested that councils which continue to publish their own ‘newspapers’ could face judicial review. 

Speaking at a Newspaper Conference quarterly lunch on Monday, Mr Pickles warned that he was looking “very carefully” at the issue of councils flouting the Publicity Code.

Approved by Parliament earlier this year, the Code stipulates that local councils should not publish newspapers in direct competition to the local press, these publications should not appear more frequently that quaterly and should only include material directly related to local services.

Asked whether anything could be done to stop councils which continued to publish competing publications, such as Tower Hamlets Council and Greenwich Borough Council which both still publish weekly newspapers, Mr Pickles said: “They are very aggressive and again it comes down to a question of ‘do you put in an iron rod to deal with social deviance?’

But… actually you could count on the fingers of one hand those authorities who have been utterly unreasonable and I suspect the longer it goes on the more cocky and unreasonable they will be.

“I think judicial review is possibly the thing that councils have to face.”

Speaking about his decision to crack down on council papers, Mr Pickles said: “I came to a view that local newspapers produced by local authorities were effectively squeezing the market out and I wanted to try and ensure that there was some scrutiny.”

He spoke of the role of local press in investigating the T. Dan Smith and Poulson scandal which also led to the resignation of Reginald Maudling, Conservative Home Secretary.

“That’s not going to happen at a paper controlled by the local council.”

Conference chairman Nick Lester chaired the lunch at which Mr Pickles took a range of questions from regional press lobby journalists. He spoke about topics such as the Localism Bill, bin collections, and elected mayors.

The lunch was covered by titles including the Liverpool Daily PostNorthern EchoBirmingham Mail, and Nottingham Post

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.