Monday 28 February 2011

Tower Hamlets scraps press table but fights to save East End Life paper, says Tory group leader

Councillor Peter Golds, leader of the Conservative Group on Tower Hamlets, claims on the ConservativeHome website that the council "is fighting to the death" to preserve its controversial newspaper East End Life.

He also says Tower Hamlets has removed its press table from the council chamber, forcing journalists to cover meetings from the public gallery.

The future of East End Life is currently "under review" and a new code being proposed by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles would ban local authority newspapers being published more often than four times a year.

But Golds writes: "Tower Hamlets Council is fighting to the death to preserve its infamous so called local newspaper, East End Life...Despite the proposed changes in the law the council are investigating the possibility of an East End Life ALMO [Arms Length Management Organisation], which will allow the paper to exist after the new rules come into operation."

Golds also claims: "How this borough treats the real and independent press can be seen in another move. Officers have removed the press table from the council chamber. Reporters from the established press have to queue up for the gallery and sit where they can to take notes in what ever fashion is possible. The Head of Communications and Marketing of course, has a raised, front row seat.

"Elected bodies from humble Parish Councils to Parliament provide press tables, but not Tower Hamlets Council."

Golds adds: "I attach the exact words used by one of the most senior officers in response to my enquiry: “This is not about access for reporters it’s about a press desk which we dealt with some time ago as it takes up too much space. The last few meetings have operated perfectly acceptably without a press desk. I don’t think there is an issue here”

"Here we have a local authority, spending £1.3 billion of public money where one of the three most senior council officers feels 'the press desk takes up too much space', despite the public section of the council chamber being increased in size since October last year."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of mischief-making in this debate, which somewhat clouds the issue. The Tories in the council clearly want to ride with Pickles' unworkably restrictive proposals on local authority publications, while the main local paper, the East London Advertiser, is motivated by its commercial interest. Perhaps it might be worth asking why, if it's so concerned about the local community, the ELA is now based miles away in Ilford.
All the while, journalists' jobs and working conditions are driven down, in Ilford and Poplar.
Tom Davies