Having a different view = ?

Tracy Hannigan's picture
 2
As discussed previously , the Hammersmith and Fulham Council free sheed H & F News declined to place our advertisement praising local primary schools. Despite our requests nobody at the Council responded to our questions about why it didn't print. Adam Courtney, at the Fulham Chronicle discovered why.

The long and short is that the Council was concerned that if they ran the ad, they’d possibly be backing an ‘anti political’ group, and that the new Local Authority publicity code legally prohibited them from running it.

Passing quickly over the fact that there’s no legal requirement to follow the new Code...they were worried that we were an ‘anti-political’ group...I’m pretty dumbfounded…

As an individual, I find it an offensive consideration. Since I hit legal voting age I have voted in nearly every local and governmental election for which I have been eligible. I have always considered political participation a responsibility and a pleasure. I’ve never particularly been a ‘campaign person’. I’m quite shy by nature and I dislike confrontation.

The initial situation in our local area charged up the protective mother in me – the mother who valued the opportunity her son had found in his richly diverse and academically sound state primary school. I feel what the local schools all offer is worth applauding and protecting. I have a strong desire to support and promote these local schools, and that has been the underpinning of our efforts.

For the group, I consider it a bit laughable. We’ve objected to precisely one free school. We have asked some questions. We have concerns about education funding and we are trying to learn what we can about that and its potential impact on our children. A few of our supporters went to the peaceful march on 26 March where we marched alongside mums with buggies before heading home before 4pm.

And our main headline on the front page this week has been to remind people to collect their school vouchers when in Tescos. Very exciting stuff!!

I laughed so hard when I read the reasoning that I thought I’d never stand upright again. I wasn't sure if I should cry. It seems to me a rather implausible, extreme and 'low' way to ‘justify’ not running an advert.
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Comments

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 20/04/2011 - 16:16

The Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authority Publicity came into force on 30 March 2011. The following paragraph says that LAs are required to "have regard" to the code. That's not the same as being legally required to follow the code.

"Local authorities are required by section 4(1) of the Act to have regard to the contents of this code in coming to any decision on publicity... The code therefore applies in relation to all decisions by local authorities relating to paid advertising and leaflet campaigns, publication of free newspapers and newssheets and maintenance of websites – including the hosting of material which is created by third parties."

The following section covers political views and comments re central government policy which should be "balanced":

"Local authorities should ensure that publicity relating to policies and proposals from central government is balanced and factually accurate. Such publicity may set out the local authority’s views and reasons for holding those views, but should avoid anything likely to be perceived by readers as constituting a political statement, or being a commentary on contentious areas of public policy" (ie free schools).

http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/localgovernment/pdf/1878324.pdf

Although it seems that there is no legal obligation to follow the Code, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) told prweek: "it would be unlawful for councils to disregard the new code once it came into force."

http://www.prweek.com/news/1037359/Communities-department-stands-firm-ba...

The question is: is there a legal requirement to follow the code? If there is not, is the DCLG leaning on Councils to comply? If so, why? Is this a way of silencing opposition to government policy?

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 20/04/2011 - 22:47

What exactly is an "anti-political" group? Do they actually mean "anti-government"? It's hard now not to wonder if Hammersmith and Fulham Council isn't becoming a mini authoritarian state, where censorship is imposed to ensure that only the party line is broadcast. It's sad but not surprising. The current government's strategy appears to be to completely brush aside any sensible debate or shout it down.

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