'Town hall Pravdas' defy Pickles and increase circulation

Three council-run newspapers have defied growing controversy surrounding the publications and increased circulation in the past six months.

London’s East End Life, Hackney Today and Waltham Forest News all upped their circulation this year, looking at circulation figures for the first six months of 2012 released by ABC this week.

Here are latest ABC figures for the titles – the only council papers audited by ABC (Title; circulation; % change period on period; % year on year)

  • East End Life (weekly): 83,506; 3%; 0.2%
  • Hackney Today (every two weeks): 91,696; 3%; 0.2%
  • Waltham Forest News (every two weeks): 98,577; 1.8%; 1.2%

This week it was revealed that editorial staff costs on East End Life average more than £47,500 per person.

The figures were obtained in a Freedom of Information request from local paper the East Dockland & East London Advertiser, which has campaigned on the issue for several year.

While the council noted the figure could not directly be equated to paid salaries as it includes national insurance, pensions contributions and other costs, Tower Hamlets media chief Kelly Powell told the paper: ‘We know these salaries are higher than some in the newspaper industry but staff salaries reflect the skills required to run a popular and well-read council publication.”

Last month, Community Secretary Eric Pickles threatened to outlaw newspapers operated by councils, which he believes damages the local press. The Newspaper Society is also lobbying the Government on the issue.

New guidelines aimed at clamping down on the publications came into force in February 2011 when the Government revised the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. While most authorities accepted the recommendations – which banned weekly, fortnightly and monthly council newspapers – a handful ignored them.

Pickles has since warned the rebel councils that the Government could introduce new laws banning the publications.

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