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Minister's warning to town councils over glossy leaflets

(January 29, 2011)
A GOVERNMENT minister has slammed councils like Warminster Town Council which have published regular glossy magazines to tell you how good they are.
Warminster had published 'Engage' several times in hideous 'dogs-breakfast' technicolor at major expense - including the services of a Malmesbury-based spin doctor at several hundred pounds a month.
We discovered the huge cost last summer following a trawl through the council's 'bills for payment'.
Now ministers have rejected calls from MPs to water down plans to crack down on council newspapers.
The government is imposing a new code of practice on what it calls 'town hall Pravdas' including limiting their frequency of publication.
A report from the backbench communities and local government commitee of MPs claimed this cut across the coalition's 'localist' principles.
But local government minister Grant Shapps refused to back down.
"Few things have done more to undermine local democracy than the explosion in town hall Pravdas bankrolled by hard pressed taxpayers," he said.
"The age of wasting taxpayers cash on pet projects like local propaganda sheets is over."
The Newspaper Society has long argued that the council publications are unfairly competing with local newspapers.
''The minister is dead right to stop councils like Warminster wasting so much money on such rubbish,'' said Steve Dancey.
''I was always amazed that Warminster Town Council, effectively a parish council had the gall to waste so much money on such nonsense but then are we surprised knowing how they are frittering our money away at the Assembly Hall?
''Of course this legislation is mainly aimed as principal authorities not minor councils such as Warminster.''

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