Fortnightly publication of town hall freesheet Hackney Today must cease by September, orders government

Hackney Town Hall, of Mare Street.

Hackney Town Hall, of Mare Street. - Credit: Archant

The government has yet again ordered Hackney Council to cut the frequency of its propaganda rag Hackney Today by September.

In November the council was told it would face court action if it did not cease fortnightly publication of the freesheet within two weeks. It was the fifth warning in the space of nearly four years.

After receiving representations from the council’s lawyers, communities secretary Sajid Javid has now given the council three months’ leeway following May’s election to reduce its publication to once every three months – as dictated by the Publicity Code.

Javid claims the freesheet, which the council claims is delivered to 108,000 homes every two weeks, competes for advertising revenue with papers like the Gazette.

But the council has argued that to publish the paper quarterly would cost them an extra £100,000 a year. It maintains Hackney Today is the most cost-effective way to communicate with people and comply with the legal requirement to publish statutory notices every two weeks. Most other councils instead publish these in local newspapers.

A response from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government delivered on Wednesday said the council had “yet to make a wholly convincing argument as regards value for money, particularly given the availability of effective and efficient non-newssheet methods of communication”.

“He [Mr Javid] is not stopping the authority from disseminating information to their residents,” it states.

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“Councils are of course welcome and expected to make use of their other existing communication outlets (e.g. their websites) to publish such information. Every local authority across England is required to publish statutory notices and the vast majority do not use a fortnightly newsletter to do so.”

The long-running saga has seen the council ignore repeated requests to stop publishing its paper more than quarterly to comply with the Publicity Code.

In January 2017 the government gave the council until the end of the month to stop such frequent publishing. That warning followed others in March 2015, September 2014 and April 2014.

A spokesman for the council said: “We have received the direction and are considering our options.”