A litany of complaints

4 Nov

The Guardian gets an earful 

Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, published today PwC’s report of its ‘Best value’ inspection of Tower Hamlets council.

One of the things the inspectors looked at was the authority’s publicity budget: 

The value of publicity expenditure relative to the overall Authority budget is modest, however it is by definition a high profile area of expenditure and potentially controversial in terms of the demarcation between that which is genuinely for the benefit of the Authority and that which is of a party political nature pertaining to the Mayor or other elected Members as politicians.

That line of demarcation is – at best – blurry here in Newham.

As well as the Newham Mag, soon to return to fortnightly publication despite the threat of legal action from Mr Pickles, and the raft of non-news stories fed to the ever-compliant Recorder there is also a concerted effort to crack down on any whiff of bad publicity.

The Guardian alone has received over 100 complaints from the Newham officials in the past couple of months over its coverage of the Focus E15 mums. 

Obviously it’s in the job description of any modern media manager to hassle journalists if they think it will have a positive impact on coverage of their employer, especially if you think they’ve been misrepresented. But the sheer volume of complaints launched at the Guardian in such a short space of time suggests that this is more than just making the authority’s case or correcting a few facts; this looks like an organised campaign.

And in the context of PwC’s findings in neighbouring Tower Hamlets, it is worth asking on whose behalf this campaign was being waged – residents, the local authority, or the mayor personally and his reputation in the Labour party

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2 Responses to “A litany of complaints”

  1. Birdman November 4, 2014 at 18:27 #

    I find it interesting that Pickles is happy to take action in Tower Hamlets. I recently complained to his Department about Newham councillors voting themselves pensions despite his Department removing the right of local councillors to be part of the local Government pension scheme. Their reply was not encouraging saying that they have no control or say over what local authorities do, and it is up totally the local electorate. This clearly is not the case in Tower Hamlets despite the fact there has not been any electoral fraud proved. Now, I think Tower Hamlets is a mess but what triggers sending investigators in? Why one Borough and not another?

    • Martin Warne November 4, 2014 at 18:30 #

      Newham is the Tories’ favourite Labour council. Pickles went out of his way to compare it favourably to Tower Hamlets when he made his statement to the Commons today.

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