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Council mag will live on

PUBLISHED: 17:50 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 21:46 02 July 2010

THE administration has rejected demands for a public consultation on the council-run Living magazine; instead boasting of its success. A motion put forward by the Residents Association at the full council meeting last Wednesday raised concerns about the

THE administration has rejected demands for a public consultation on the council-run Living magazine; instead boasting of its success.

A motion put forward by the Residents' Association at the full council meeting last Wednesday raised concerns about the publication's frequency, lack of accountability, coverage of only cabinet members and impact on local newspapers. It also demanded a public consultation on the controversial publication.

The motion was supported with slight amendments by the Labour party.

But the Tory administration rejected the motion, instead amending it to: "This council notes the great success of the pilot to increase the frequency of the Living magazine and supports its continuation. This council also recognises that the Living magazine provides information to our local communities on council-related matters and notes that six out of ten residents in Havering are satisfied with this publication."

In his speech, opposition leader Cllr Clarence Barrett (RA, Cranham) argued: "My key points are:

a) Should the council be engaged in the newspaper business in direct competition with the local press?

b) The cost of the newspaper is £95,000 per annum and is therefore a publication which, by definition, is subsidised by the council tax payers of Havering.

c) Can a publication which predominantly features just the nine members of the Cabinet be considered to be fair, neutral and partisan free?"

He was supported by leader of the Labour Party, Cllr Keith Darvill (Lab, Heaton), who said: "We should not do anything to undermine the free press and if on balance, Living is not good value, is not popular with residents, is not widely read and as a publication sees Havering through rose tinted glasses - i.e. never highlighting the areas where we do not do so well or need improving - which does not show the work of all members and is seen as biased...this all amounts to good reasons for a change in policy and this debate needs to be taken to our communities and to a wide ranging consultation."

In response, Cllr Eric Munday said he would be happy for a public consultation - but only after the local elections.

He said Living's burgeoning advertising revenue ensured it was "not a burden to the taxpayer" and claimed the inclusion of only cabinet members met the government's code of practice.

Cllr Munday added: "All local authorities must keep their residents informed on what is being done on their behalf and before we took the decision to increase the publication fortnightly we were dependent on the local newspapers accepting our news releases and running with them.

"Frequently this did not happen and people were not informed. We therefore researched the economics of having an in-house paper which would meet the needs of the council and its partners in the task of communicating with Havering residents."

The administration's amended motion was passed 30 votes to 16.


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