By Peter Wozniak
Money allotted for free council newspapers may become a victim of government austerity, Eric Pickles has announced.
The papers will be restricted to publishing only four times a year while the hiring of lobbyists to work on them will be clamped down on, under proposals by the local government secretary.
"The rules around council publicity have been too weak for too long allowing public money to be spent on frivolous town hall propaganda papers that have left many local newspapers looking over the abyss - weakening our free press - or to use 'hired-gun' lobbyists that operate in the shadows to bulldoze special interests through," Mr Pickles said.
"The proposals I am publishing today will close off these inappropriate practices and make sure that councils focus taxpayers' money on where it should be spent - protecting frontline services."
Mr Pickles argued that council-funded papers crowd out the market, preventing local papers from establishing themselves.
"An independent local press is an essential part of our open democracy helping local people scrutinise and hold elected councillors to account", he added.
The department for communities and local government has been a cauldron of activity since the eboulliant Mr Pickles took his post.
The latest proposals follow a long stream of announcements designed to de-centralise power from Whitehall and cut spending in preparation for the coming austerity-drive.
Drastic cuts in housing spending are expected, while many council services may be 'farmed out' to private companies.
The precise details will only become clear after the spending review on October 20th.