The government has likened Greenwich Council to Vladimir Putin over its refusal to shut down its controversial in-house newspaper.

The communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles has threatened to shut free council-run newspapers such as Greenwich Time, accusing them of peddling propaganda.

He 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.”

He added: “Localism needs robust and independent scrutiny by the press and public, and municipal state-produced newspapers suppress that.

“Town hall Pravdas not only waste taxpayers' money unnecessarily, they undermine free speech."

Pickles says Greenwich Time has two weeks to defend its actions and explain why legal proceedings should not be taken against them for breaking the publicity code for local authorities - part of the Local Audit and Accountability Act passed in January.