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Greenwich Council paper Greenwich Time set to continue, despite new law
GREENWICH Council's weekly newspaper - branded "one of the worst" examples of local authority propaganda sheets by a government minister - looks set to continue, despite a new law cracking down on "town hall Pravdas".
The Local Audit and Accountability Act, passed into law last week, is partially designed to enforce guidelines on council publicity, which state that papers like the council's Greenwich Time should not be published more than four times per year and should be fair and objective.
Greenwich Time is published weekly and made the news last year after one of its journalists, Peter Cordwell, was sacked for writing a letter to News Shopper in support of Lewisham Hospital.
He then made a series of extraordinary claims to News Shopper - all denied by the council - including that leader Councillor Chris Roberts insisted on replacing a picture of smiling children with one of his own face, and that leadership rival Councillor John Fahy was essentially banned from the paper.
Last week, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said: "Greenwich Time is one of the worst examples of these town hall Pravdas, and the action we’re taking will ensure that local taxpayers will finally be rid of them."
Greenwich Conservatives are now calling for the paper to comply with the guidelines. Deputy leader Councillor Nigel Fletcher said: "I’m very pleased the government has acted to ban propaganda-sheets like Greenwich Time.
"It is clearly wrong that Labour in Greenwich are able to send residents this biased publication every week, paid for by the taxpayers of the borough.
"It also provides unfair competition to genuine local newspapers, which are such an important part of local accountability. I hope the council will now finally comply with the guidelines and stop this inappropriate waste of public money."
At the last full council meeting, Deputy Leader of Greenwich Council Councillor Peter Brooks would not say if the law would affect the paper's publication.
But the council said in a statement that Greenwich Time that it already complied with the law. A spokesman said: "The Royal Borough of Greenwich currently complies with the provisions of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity in relation to Greenwich Time.
"The paper is published on a weekly basis to inform residents about local services and to promote social housing available through our Choice Based Lettings scheme.
"It has also reduced expenditure on statutory notices such as planning applications which has helped to freeze council tax for the last seven years and these savings have been passed back to local residents."