Contention over Hackney Council’s plans to spend an extra �25,000 on “propaganda rag”

Plans to spend an extra �25,500 of public funds on what’s been dubbed the Labour council’s “propaganda rag” have been blasted by the Tory opposition.

The town hall is planning to spend an extra �25,000 bringing out three additional issues of its newspaper, Hackney Today, in the run-up to the Olympics.

Normally it comes out fortnightly but from June 18 to July 29 three extra issues will be produced as the paper goes weekly.

The paper has been branded “a propaganda sheet” for the Labour-controlled council and opposition parties say the new proposals are a further waste of taxpayers’ money.

The paper is just three in the UK which continued operating in January, despite Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles’s advising councils to discontinue taxpayer-funded papers, to ensure a robust independent local press can continue to scrutinise their activities.

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It is estimated Hackney Today costs the council �315,000.

A council spokeswoman said “We are considering the production of extra editions of Hackney Today this summer to ensure that all residents have access to up-to-date service information throughout this intensely busy period, and to ensure that we are able to provide residents with the information they need to enjoy all the community events and local activities that will be open to them during the 2012 Games.”

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Councillors were not given a chance to vote on the matter, as the “operational decision” was taken by officers using delegated powers.

The extra cost of printing and distribution is estimated at �8,500 per extra edition.

The council had to make �25 million cuts this year after the government slashed funding.

“The point is they can make cuts in jobs and services, but money to promote themselves can always be found,” said Tory Cllr Linda Kelly, who defected from Labour in 2010.

“The spin is the fascinating part, it’s “We are not doing it to promote the Labour administration or the Mayor, it is service we are offering you, aren’t we wonderful,”” she added.

“Yet did they advertise the fact Boris gave all 33 London Boroughs �50,000.00 to purchase street furniture to help dress the Boroughs for the Olympics?

“It’s the wrong Mayor, wrong Party.”

The council plans to offset the production costs through advertising revenue and has said they will not employ additional staff.

“The idea to produce more papers is about regular communication, if more are produced there will be less pages and no impact on staff costs,” said a spokeswoman.

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