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Forward into battle as Tilsley slams council’s ‘Pravda’ newspaper

Forward into battle as Tilsley slams council’s ‘Pravda’ newspaper

🕔23.Oct 2014

The latest edition of Birmingham city council’s free newspaper ‘Forward’ has been branded a Labour party propaganda sheet and likened to the Russian political publication Pravda.

The stinging rebuke comes from Paul Tilsley, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, who has lodged a formal complaint about Forward with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Cllr Tilsley accused the Labour-run council of using Forward to present a “highly political, inaccurate and one-sided view” of the impact cuts in Government funding are having on Birmingham.

A ban on councils using newspapers for party political purposes is only advisory. Mr Pickles has been at the forefront of a campaign to strengthen rules around council publicity and is considering making existing guidance legally binding.

Cllr Tilsley said the £245,000 spent by the council on sending the newspaper to every home in Birmingham would have protected 10 front-line jobs and was “totally unacceptable” in the current financial climate.

The autumn edition of Forward contains an attack on the coalition Government’s austerity programmed and sets out in detail the scale of cuts in council grant.

But Cllr Tilsley said the articles were misleading because they failed to mention more than £700 million of additional money the council had received from the Government over and above its core revenue support grant, channelled mainly through the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP.

His remarks have a familiar ring to them. Six years ago, when Cllr Tilsley was deputy leader of the council in a Con-Lib Dem coalition, he also faced criticism that Forward was being used as a propaganda sheet.

Angry Labour councillors protested in 2008 when seven photographs of Tory council leader Mike Whitby dominated the first eight pages of the newspaper. To rub salt into the wound, an article by opposition Labour leader Sir Albert Bore setting out his budget proposals was rejected for publication because it was “too political”.

A year ago Mr Pickles issued a stern warning about council publicity machines: “Some councils are undermining the free press and wasting taxpayers’ money which should be spent carefully on the front-line services that make a real difference to quality of life.

“It should not, under any circumstances, be used to fund political propaganda and town hall Pravdas and yet a hardcore minority of councils continue to ignore the rules despite public concern.”

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