On Conservative Home today John Moss, a Conservative Candidate in the City & East constituency for next year’s London Assembly election, wrote about Tower Hamlets Council’s decision not to scrap their newspaper ‘East End Life’, in defiance of the DCLG’s new ‘Code of Conduct’. He said “one London council is holding out against common sense and continuing to produce a weekly newspaper, delivered free to 87,000 homes in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets… and the cost of this to Tower Hamlets taxpayers? A cool £1.5 million a year.”
Tower Hamlets’ ‘East End Life’ is a taxpayer-funded propaganda ‘pravda’ newspaper which will now become weekly, be redesigned, and have a website, despite the ‘Code of Conduct’ calling for such newspapers to be scrapped. Takki Sulaiman, the Director of Communications at Tower Hamlets who receives a hefty salary of £100,000 per year, conducted the review of the newspaper’s future, which makes up the bulk of his portfolio, and decided against abolition. The consultation process involved a grand total of 624 people – out of the 87,000 households which receive the newspaper – who decided to respond. With this 0.7% self-selected response rate Takki Sulaiman announced he had 51% of local people’s support.
The Executive Mayor Lutfur Rahman declared a £200,000 cut to the council’s budget. However, the report on scrapping the newspaper claimed that abolition would cost £2.1 million due to contracting costs and therefore it would be more efficient to keep it going. But the council did not give any figures for the long term savings that would be made by getting rid of ‘East End Life’. Mr Rahman is well acquainted with the culture of public waste, having been backed in the Mayoral race against the official Labour candidate by Ken Livingstone, who spent £3 million a year on his own propaganda rag ‘The Londoner’ (and reviving ‘The Londoner’ is one of the few solid pledges Mr Livingstone has made so far).
Tower Hamlets Council are resisting the cuts being made by DCLG and have refused to act in line with the new ‘Code of Conduct’. Their excuse is that they’re one of the most deprived areas in London and any serious reductions in public expenditure can only do them significant harm. However, this claim is blatantly false when one considers the fact that they have the fourth highest spending power of any UK council. In 2011-12 they will spend £1,889.64 per head with a population of 234,765. That’s a total of £443,621,334.6. Tower Hamlets Council have taxpayers’ money pouring out of their ears yet instead of using those resources to help the most deprived people in the borough, they are wasting £1.5 million a year on a newspaper which competes with real journalism.
Between December 2010 and March 2011 the council spent £154,431.16 on publishing and distributing the newspaper. This consisted of £128,013.02 for Trinity Mirror Printing Watford Ltd and £26,418.14 for The Distribution Company, which are both based in Tower Hamlets. It is time for accountability and efficiency to replace cronyism and profligate spending in local government. Tower Hamlets need to accept that East End Life is an unacceptable waste of taxpayers’ money and a gross distortion of a fair debate.