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Rules on Council Taxpayer funded propaganda to be tightened

NottinghamA clear message from the Government that councils that are to face tighter rules on publicity spending to avoid abuses where the Council Taxpayer funds partisan propaganda.

The following Written Answer regarding Tower Hamlets obviously has wider implications:

Jim Fitzpatrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what sanctions his Department is considering following the report by Ofcom into the political broadcasts of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets. 

Brandon Lewis: In its ruling last month, Ofcom censured five television channels for running advertisements for the Mayor of Tower Hamlets which contravened the prohibition on political advertising. It noted that one of the television channels would have been fined with a “substantial statutory sanction” had it not already ceased trading and surrendered its broadcasting licence. The political advertisements were funded by taxpayers' money.

Tower Hamlets' political broadcasts were a breach of the Communications Act 2003, the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising and the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. Although Ofcom has the power to censure or fine broadcasters, it has no power to take any action against an advertiser.

The use of taxpayers' money for political campaigning is simply not acceptable, and this is in addition to Tower Hamlets' disregard of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity through its continuing publication of its weekly propaganda newspaper, East End
Life. Such actions are not just a misuse of public funds, they are ultimately harmful to local democracy and an independent, free press. It is also further evidence of a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and mismanagement of council staff and resources by the mayoral administration.

We are looking at putting the Publicity Code on a statutory basis to address this corrosive abuse of taxpayers' money.

Advertisements such as the one pictured from Nottingham Council are clearly anti Government propaganda. Furthemore it is highly misleading. Nottingham has a "spending power" under the settlement of £2,275.47p per dwelling. For Windsor and Maidenhead it's £1,518.91. Nottingham is still getting vastly more subsidy than Windsor. I suppose Windsor and Maidenhead Council could spend lots of money on unpleasant class war poster complaining about this - but they have other priorities.


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