Labour councillors under fire for “shameless” £384,000 magazine

Conservative councillors have criticised Greenwich Council’s attempt to replace its controversial weekly newspaper Greenwich Time with a fortnightly magazine called Greenwich Info. The decision, set to cost the taxpayer £384,000, has been ‘called in’ by Councillors Matt Hartley and Spencer Drury for scrutiny.

Last month the Council published the last ever edition of Greenwich Time after losing a costly legal battle to save the weekly paper. The demise of Greenwich Time followed years of criticism for party political bias and a production cost to the taxpayer of nearly £600,000 a year.

Labour councillors’ failed legal bid to save the paper ended at the end of last year with the Council agreeing to fully comply with the government’s Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. The Consent Order that ended the legal battle stated that future communications to residents must only be sent “to those residents who choose to receive such information” and only on the condition that it “does not have the appearance of a newspaper, newssheet or similar communication”.

In a decision published on Monday, however, it emerged that the Council will instead publish a fortnightly publication called “Greenwich Info” that will be delivered to every letterbox at a cost to the taxpayer of £384,000. Every edition will promote a foreword from the Labour Leader of the Council Denise Hyland, contain news-like ‘features’ and take paid-for advertising that would otherwise go to genuine local media outlets.

Conservative councillors have branded the decision “completely shameless” and warned the move risks exposing the Council to enforcement action and a resumption of legal proceedings.

Conservative councillors Matt Hartley and Spencer Drury have ‘called in’ the decision for scrutiny, on the basis that it;

  • Would place the Council in non-compliance with the Consent Order, exposing the Council to enforcement action
  • Represents a waste of taxpayer resources (costing £384,000 a year)
  • Is anti-competitive and will negatively impact local media outlets
  • Has already been implemented, with costs incurred in producing the first edition, before the decision has been formally taken 

Councillor Matt Hartley, Leader of Greenwich Conservatives, said: “This decision is completely shameless. After finally admitting they have spent nearly £600,000 a year of taxpayers money on producing Greenwich Time, then wasting £80,000 in their desperate legal bid to save it, Labour councillors are now intent on misusing yet more of our money to promote themselves and their agenda.

“At last month’s council meeting I pressed Labour to explain where the £600,000 they have been spending on Greenwich Time would go – and now we know what they have been planning. They have even produced the first edition of Greenwich Info even before the official decision-making process was followed, which tells you all you need to know about Labour’s contempt for democracy in our borough.

“Labour councillors have serious questions to answer on this– and they will have to answer the first 25 of them later this month now that we have called in the decision.”