Council closes fortnightly paper after 23 years, falling in line with government guidelines

East End Life grab

A new quarterly magazine will replace fortnightly council paper East End Life in Tower Hamlets, bringing the local authority in line with government publicity guidelines.

East End Life, which has been running for 23 years, published its final edition on Monday. In its place, residents of the east London borough will now receive four issues of Our East End through their door per year with the first issue due out 13 June.

The paper had been operating outside of guidance from the Department for Communities and Local Government since March 2011, when the government revised the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity first introduced in 1988.

Under the section titled Appropriate Use of Publicity the codes states: “Local authorities should not publish or incur expenditure in commissioning in hard copy or on any website, newsletters, newssheets or similar communications which seek to emulate commercial newspapers in style or content.

“Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly.”

Communities secretary Greg Clark said East End Life had been an “unnecessary use of taxpayers’ money” and had “undermined the much-needed independent local press”.

“Council newspapers can and do have a role in informing communities about local services, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of the health of our local democracy,” he said.

“Tower Hamlets has made a common sense decision to comply with the Code, but we have strong rules in place to protect the press and if councils aren’t playing by the rules we won’t be afraid to step in.”

The decision to scrap the paper also follows in the wake of former mayor Lutfur Rahman’s removal from office last year after the High Court found him guilty of election fraud and corruption.

Incumbent Labour mayor John Biggs has made much of appearing open and transparent to members of the public and press since winning in a second election held after Rahman’s removal from office.

In an editorial on the front page of the last edition of East End Life, editor Helen Watson said the paper had been set up to “promote service and help foster unity and community cohesion” following the election of Britiain’s first BNP councillor Derek Beackon on the Isle of Dogs in 1993 by seven votes.

She added: “Our aim was to publish news about the council and the community, promoting the history and beauty of our brilliant and unique borough, while keeping residents informed about what was happening, how to access services and better their quality of life.

“We have covered major events affecting local people, from the Brick Lane and 7/7 bombings, Royal visits and the London 2012 Olympic Games, to the revamp of Victoria Park and the transformation of Docklands.

“East End Life has tried to give a voice to community groups who do a vital job, often without funds and staffed by volunteers.”

The Tower Hamlets community is served by a weekly newspaper in the form of the East London Advertiser, owned by publisher Archant.

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