Government threatens legal action - again - unless Hackney Council stops publishing freesheet Hackney Today
PUBLISHED: 16:31 06 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:51 06 January 2017
The government has once again threatened to take legal action unless Hackney Council ceases publishing its free newspaper, Hackney Today, by the end of the month.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, claims the free sheet - which is delivered to 108,000 homes every fortnight - is harming local democracy by competing for advertising revenue with papers like the Gazette.
He has ordered them again to comply with the Publicity Code - which states that any council publication should not be published more than quarterly.
But the council has once again dug in its heels – in the stand-off which has been rumbling on for nearly two years - and vowed to continue publishing it.
It argues that it is the most cost-effective way for them to communicate with residents, and to comply with the legal requirement to publish statutory notices every two weeks.
They say that to publish the paper quarterly would cost them an extra £100,000 a year.
But Mr Javid said even if it did cost more, then so be it “because the flourishing of an independent and politically free local media is an essential component of any local democracy.”
He said it is possible that “more or wider circulating local newspapers would be available if there were no council newspaper”.
“This is because if ‘Hackney Today’ was produced on a quarterly basis some of the advertising that itcurrently takes would probably be available to other local media, and other markets would probably develop for alternative media that would otherwise have been deterred by the existence of a council newssheet published every fortnight.”
Only Waltham Forest and Newham councils continue to flout the law along with Hackney.
The letters sent to Hackney follow others in April 2014, September 2014 and March 2015 warning that fortnightly publication should cease.
The council refused to share the letter they sent in response stating it is “subject to legal professional privilege”.
A spokesman for the council said: “We have once again stated that we will voluntarily reduce the frequency of publication of Hackney Today, when the government lifts the out-dated legal requirements to publish statutory notices in a printed fortnightly publication. We have not yet received any further correspondence from DCLG.”