Council's Newspaper to be Axed

Change of mind follows crackdown on Town Hall "Pravdas"

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council

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H&F News to be Replaced as Government Cracks Down on Town Hall "Pravdas"

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council have abandoned plans to tender out a contract to run their newspaper. This is likely to mean the demise of H&F News the fortnightly publication which was delivered to homes throughout the borough.

The council has announced it "will no longer be producing a newspaper from the spring/summer of 2011 and therefore wishes to place this advertising in another newspaper."

As we reported earlier at the end of September, the council previously claimed H & F News was to be "transformed". This means it would disappear in its current format to be replaced by a new local newspaper with guaranteed editorial independence.

The council's move came one day after the Government announced a crackdown on free council papers which compete directly with independent local press.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said he was determined to stop council taxpayers' money being spent on "frivolous town hall propaganda papers" at a time when many local papers were struggling to survive.

At the time, the council said it intended to to enter a partnership arrangement with an independent news provider to produce the new paper.

But now, its new plan is to transfer the existing private commercial advertising which is currently carried by H&F News, projected to be worth £375,000 in this financial year, to another publisher.

The council says it has two contractual aims: to secure the most economical rate possible for future council advertising, and to secure free allocated space in a way that is clearly signposted " to enable us to engage and involve our residents in community-led issues."

The council plans to enter into a contract lasting seven years, and will clarify its intentions at a Meet the Buyer event held at Hammersmith Town Hall on November 17.

Last week PR Week reported that the Department of Communities and Local Government planned to stand up to Hammersmith and Fulham Council if it went ahead with its original plan, as a way of getting round its proposed ban on frequently produced council publications, which it claimed would be unlawful under the new Revised Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity.

Now the Communities Minister Bob Neill is welcoming Hammersmith and Fulham Council's change of mind. He said:   " Councils should spend less time and money on weekly town hall Pravdas that end up in the bin, and focus more on frontline services like providing regular rubbish collections."

November 5, 2010