The Tories at Hammersmith & Fulham Council tell us that they’re “open and transparent”. In fact, they say a lot of things, most of which is backslapping, self-congratulatory bullshit. But the Council has been the subject of more “Rotten Borough” stories in Private Eye than any other council since Westminster’s frequent appearances in the magazine during the 1980’s. Shepherds Bush blog and HFConwatch both tell us that the council has featured in the magazine’s “Rotten Boroughs” a record six times.
I watched the Politics Show on BBC1 last Sunday. Greg Smith, Young Britons’ Foundation campaigns director and LBHF Cabinet Member for Residents Services (yes, I couldn’t quite believe it when I first saw it either) was trying to defend the Council’s decision to buy space in the Fulham Chronicle for £75,000. Responding to local MP, Andy Slaughter’s charge that the paper was now pushing the Council’s propaganda, Smith claimed that the paper carried the council’s “events listings” but isn’t this the job of an independent local paper anyway? Why does the council have to buy column space to disseminate this kind of information? Oddly enough, no mention was made of the censoring of an advertisement for the Parents Alliance for Community Schools or Slaughter’s column in the paper.
Curiously enough, before the Chronicle was paid £75k by the Council, I never once received the paper through my letter box. Yesterday, there it was on my doormat, as bold as brass, masquerading as an independent local newspaper. What amuses me is the way the Council tries to defend its purchase of
the paper column space by claiming that it needs to have its notices printed somewhere. As far as I’m aware, all local newspapers do this for free anyway. You will always find planning notices in the back pages of local papers. Even the Biggleswade Chronicle prints such notices and has done for many, many years. Why did it cost LBHF £75k to do this?
Cllr Smith (quoted from the Shepherds Bush blog) said
Let’s look at the reality of the situation: Without the advertising contract the Council has with the Chronicle, the STATUTORY planning notices alone would cost £120,000. We get them for £75,000 along with free advertising for things like asking people to come forward as foster carers and the double page spread which we use for events listings, informing people of road closures etc.
It makes you wonder how councils managed in the past, doesn’t it? Perfectly well, it seems.