Luton Borough Council says it is ‘surprised and disappointed’ after the government ordered that it should reduce the frequency of its taxpayer funded newsletter.
The council is one of seven local authorities to have received a letter from Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins MP, who has warned that non-compliance with the government’s publicity code could result in a court order,
The code requires local councils to limit publication to prevent competition with local newspapers and obliges cost effectiveness and objectivity in any publicity material published.
LBC currently publishes its newsletter Lutonline monthly, delivering it to 72,000 homes across the borough.
A note in the publication states that ‘private advertising keeps production costs to a minimum’.
Mr Hopkins said: “It has been suggested that some councils might not be complying with the publicity code.
“Newsletters, newssheets or similar communications should not issue more frequently than quarterly.
“The great majority of local authorities comply with the publicity code, which was designed to ensure the independent local media– a vital part in any local democracy– does not face unfair competition.
“Councils should now take steps to ensure publication in the future will be in line with the code’s provisions.”
An LBC spokesperson said: “The council is surprised and disappointed at the contents of the letter from Kris Hopkins MP.
“We have always made our position very clear that we are fully supportive of the code of recommended practice on local authority publicity and apply its principles rigorously.
“However we feel that the frequency of council publications should be a matter of local discretion.
“Lutonline is an extremely cost effective means of providing timely information about council services to nearly every household in Luton, and while we have fully embraced new forms of media in order to make this available in a wider range of channels, we constantly receive feedback that Lutonline remains very much valued by residents and get complaints when it is not received.”