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Greenwich Time in the firing line from Eric Pickles law plan
Greenwich Council's propaganda paper is back in the headlines after a Government minister suggested weekly local authority publications should be banned by law.
The freesheet, recently renamed Royal Greenwich Time, is one of only a handful in the country still being published more than four times a year after the Department for Communities and Local Government issued new guidance on them last year.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has now said he would like the code - which advises against making freesheets more than quarterly - to become law, branding papers like Greenwich Time "town hall Pravdas".
The government currently has no power to enforce the code though breaches can be dealt with by a district auditor.
However, the news came just as the district auditor rejected a complaint from the Greenwich Conservative group about the council's publication, which regularly features grinning pictures of cabinet members and the views of leader Councillor Chris Roberts.
In a written reply, auditor Sue Exton said she was content that the editorial control exerted by council officers was sufficient to ensure Greenwich Time was not politically biased.
But Greenwich Conservative leader Councillor Spencer Drury said: "I do reflect on what a Labour councillor once said to me, which was that while Greenwich Time was being pushed through letter boxes across the borough on a weekly basis the Conservatives could win nothing in Greenwich.
"I think the reason behind this paper is political and the council knows it.
"Taxpayers are effectively paying to be brainwashed."
A spokesman for Greenwich Council said: "Greenwich Time saves up to £1.5m or 2 per cent on our council tax levels by reducing our expenditure on advertising official notices. This has helped us to freeze council tax for the last five years as we have passed these savings back to local residents.
"The loss of Greenwich Time and the consequent costs of having to advertise in at least two other papers to achieve the same coverage could increase our council tax by 2 per cent.
"The District Auditor has further vindicated our decision to continue to keep local residents informed through our weekly newspaper, by finding that we have no case to answer in response to a referral that was made against Greenwich Time."
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