Wirral Council has insisted it does not seek to compete with local newspapers on its patch despite publishing an appeal for advertisers in its monthly publication.
The advert in the Wirral View (pictured) says: “Advertise Your Business to Every Home, Every Business, Every Month”.
This appears to contradict a statement issued yesterday by the council to Press Gazette which said: “We have deliberately not sought to compete with the local media for advertising revenue, and we have ensured Wirral View is a completely different product to the existing local free-sheets.”
Press Gazette yesterday reported on the closure of the fortnightly Wirral News, which came ten months after the launch of the council’s Wirral View.
In its statement announcing the closure of Wirral News, publisher Trinity Mirror said: “The Wirral marketplace has become increasingly crowded with free print products with now even Wirral Borough Council producing a monthly free print publication themselves.
“We believe that there is no longer a viable, scaleable or long-term future for free/giveaway print products within the Wirral marketplace”.
Newsquest also publishes a weekly title in the area, which is on the other side of Mersey from Liverpool, called the Wirral Globe.
Despite being blamed for the closure of Wirral News, Wirral Council holds that it did not violate government regulations by publishing its monthly newsletter Wirral View.
It told Press Gazette that central government Publicity Code prohibiting local authorities from publishing newsletters more than quarterly in frequency is a recommendation rather than a legal obligation.
Upon the initial release of the Wirral View in October 2016, the council said: “The launch of Wirral View came after extensive market research last year by leading market research agency Ipsos Mori showed 6 out of 10 Wirral residents do not feel well informed about local services and community information, with the figure even greater in the borough’s more economically deprived areas.”
Wirral Council’s head of communications Kevin MacCallum said: “Our Residents’ Survey last year told us we weren’t communicating well enough with residents. It’s almost impossible for the council to do its job well if its main customers – Wirral residents – do not know what services it provides and what help is on offer.
“This is why keeping residents well-informed is incredibly important and it’s why we made improving our communications a high priority.”
In 2014 local government minister Kris Hopkins wrote to several councils regarding their violation of the Publicity Code. She said: “Newsletters, newssheets or similar communications should not issue more frequently than quarterly.
“The great majority of local authorities comply with the Publicity Code, which was designed to ensure the independent local media – a vital part in any local democracy – does not face unfair competition.
“Councils should now take steps to ensure publication in the future will be in line with the Code’s provisions.”