Betts: Curbs cut across localism

Communities and local government committee chair Clive Betts comments on his report on the new code curbing local authority publicity:

"There is a clear concern that some local authorities are using council taxpayer's money to promote their local politicians and policies. It is appropriate that the proposed code should prevent such activities being undertaken at taxpayer's expense.

"However, we doubt that the proposed code should specify a maximum frequency of publication, especially in the context of the government's professed commitment to greater 'localism'. If properly enforced, we believe the provisions in the proposed code relating to cost effectiveness, content and appearance are sufficient to deal with the excesses seen in the handful of council papers that have caused concern.

"We also agree that the hiring of political lobbyists by local authority to contact ministers and members of parliament is a waste of public money but we doubt that a code of practice on local authority publicity is the correct tool by which to apply constraints upon this activity."

He added: "Most local authorities still find they do not need to communicate information to residents more often than quarterly - in line with the principle of cost effectiveness contained within the code.

"In line with a commitment to local decision making it should also be left to every local authority to choose for themselves how often they publish an information sheet."


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