Published: 00:00, 24 August 2014 |
Updated: 13:15, 24 August 2014
Medway council has been warned by central government to stop breaking publicity rules.
A letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government to council leader Rodney Chambers notes concerns the council might not be complying with the Publicity Code - specifically by publishing its newssheet Medway Matters every two months, rather than the stipulated quarterly limit.
Written by minister for local government Kris Hopkins, the letter reminds Cllr Chambers that council newsletters should not be issued to frequently “to ensure that in each locality the independent local media does not face unfair competition.”
He adds: “In short, the purpose of that provision is to facilitate the environment which is as conducive as possible to the flourishing of the independent local media, an essential element of any effectively operating local democracy.”
The MP asks Cllr Chambers to take steps to ensure future publication is in line with the code and to reply within the next ten days to state how the council intends to proceed.
Earlier this year Medway Labour leader Vince Maple wrote to Secretary of State Eric Pickles, saying Medway matters and its associated website broke the code on matters of even-handedness, cost, frequency, and ambiguity - the last point raising concerns the council was using a ‘.com’ web domain rather than a ‘gov.uk’ and had the appearance of a news website, making it unclear that the site was a council production.
Responding to the latest development, Cllr Maple said he welcomed the letter, adding: “I hope they also take this opportunity to tackle the issues of cost, even-handedness and ambiguity which we have previously raised concerns over.
"The fact that Medway Matters has previously been used to ask a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate what their favourite food is or if they have any pets is a complete abuse of tax payers money - that simply wouldn’t happen under a Medway Labour controlled council.”
Cllr Tristan Osborne added: "I welcome any move which may cut taxpayer cost on a publication which undermines ad revenue for local journalism. Since 2010 the cost of the magazine has gone up by 15% and costs an eye watering £117,000 a year to distribute.
“Questions remain however about why senior Conservative Councillors deliberately chose to ignore government guidance that has been made clear for months and at what point officers briefed them on the Code of Practice. As the main opposition we have consistently raised this issue to senior portfolio holders yet have been ignored.”
Cllr Rodney Chambers said he had passed the letter on to officers responsible for Medway Matters.
“The letter suggests we should come down to quarterly,” he said. “We’re giving serious consideration to what the minister has said.
“I’ve referred it to the relevant officers to see what the implications are.”
Every morning at 10am we play you an hour of tunes from the 90s. We call it, #WeLoveThe90s.
Play 'Say It' with Garry and Laura on kmfm Breakfast and you could win £1,000!
Wake up to kmfm Breakfast with Garry and Laura - it's Kent's alarm call.
A guide for your future. For year 11 students in Kent and Medway. Click here for the e-edition.
Education, Training & Childcare is a special supplement published by KM Media Group four times a year. Click here for latest e-edition.
This is a brand new online resource covering every aspect of owning and improving a home in Kent and Medway.
Get the latest food and drink news, recipes from some of the nation's top chefs plus updates from Kent's vineyards and breweries.
Search in your local area to find your perfect partner in Kent, with FreshStart Dating! PLUS, register for free!.
Neil Miller, Hever Castle head gardener is new gardening blogger.
Buy pictures that you've seen in a KM newspaper, or send in a picture and we will place it on our photo sales website so that you can purchase a super, unique gift.