local authority propaganda on the rates
local government |
Sunday December 19, 2010 14:53 by Council Tenant - Tenants Against The Cuts
Grant Shapps MP and his selective amnesia
Local Authority Publicity Code - DOE Circular 20/88.
bettsc, sandra, picklese, richard.kemp, stuart.macdona.,
19/12.10 at 2:46 PM
Dear Mr Betts,
As Chairman of the Communities and Local Government Committee you held on the 13th December 2010 a one day hearing into proposed changes to the Local Authority Publicity Code DOE Circular 20/88. You asked several of the witnesses called eg: Grant Shapps MP, Cllr Richard Kemp, if they were aware of any breaches of the Code of Recommended Practise on Local Authority Publicity. To a man they all shook their heads and stated they were not aware of any breaches of the code.
For your information I refer you to the following facts.
1) “I have concluded that Bath and North East Somerset ( B&NES) Council breached s4 of the LGA 1986 (as amended) because it failed to have regard to the Code of Recommended Practise on Local Authority Publicity in coming to its decision to publish “Transfer News” during the Weston by-election and that, accordingly, the expenditure incurred by the Council in connection with “Transfer News” was unlawful.” (Mr Richard Lott District Auditor letter to B&NES Council’s Chief Executive 27th October 1998)
2) “Transfer News – consultation publicity with council tenants. In summary B&NES Council has incurred £500,000 of unlawful expenditure by preparing, publishing and distributing the publicity material. I find this material to be unbalanced, one-sided and misleading…in some respects scaremongering” (Mr Richard Lott District Auditor Statement of Reasons 31st October 2001)
This judgement was at the time extensively covered in the national housing press eg: Inside Housing, Housing Today, as well as Private Eye, BBC News, local media etc.,
3) “In summary West Wiltshire Council has incurred unlawful expenditure by preparing, publishing and distributing the publicity material. (Richard Lott District Auditor letter to Chief Executive West Wiltshire District Council January 2002)
4) “Lancashire County Council is to leave the North West Regional Assembly in a move prompted by fears that Council Tax is being spent illegally. In the light of advice from leading counsel, the authority’s Cabinet took the view that the North West Regional Assembly’s publicity amounted to a campaign with the aim of persuading and that it ought not to allow its £80,000 annual subscription to be used in this way.” (Lancashire County Council Press Release 6th March 2003)
5) House of Lords debate regarding unlawful publicity being issued by regional assemblies (20 March 2003: Column 358)
5) “Twenty five Council’s charged with illegal campaigning. Leaders of a North East lobby group have been reprimanded by the District Auditor after allegations they used taxpayers cash to promote a regional assembly. District Auditor David Jennings wrote “So far as I can see, some of the publicity issued by the North East Assembly could be seen to be contravening Part II of the Local Government Act 1986 and DOE Circular 20/88 Code of Recommended Practise on Local Authority Publicity. It could be argued that unlawful expenditure has been incurred by the twenty five contributing authorities.” (The Journal 6th May 2003)
6) “Since I issued my statements of reasons in October 2001 my legal advisors have drawn my attention to the case of R (Beale and Carty) v Camden London Borough (2004) EWHC 6 (Admin), which relates to consultation with tenants about the transfer of the management of Camden’s housing stock. The Camden case suggests that publicity does not need to be balanced and that the consultation is a matter for the Secretary of State rather than the courts…but the Camden case does not seem to have considered the principle that local authorities may only do that which they are authorised to do by statute to do. Continuing legal advice to me is that those powers (including the power to issue publicity) may only be exercised for a proper purpose. In this context if the publicity material had been designed to persuade rather than inform it was unlawful.” (Richard Lott District Auditor Transfer of Housing Stock B&NES Council Public Interest Report March 2004)
Considering the 28 judgements made by the Audit Commission we are surprised that none of the witnesses called by your committee could recall any breaches of the Code of Recommended Practise on Local Authority Publicity.
Finally can Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps confirm they will be clamping down on local authorities who are still mounting propaganda campaigns promoting the sell-off of our council housing in clear breach of Part II LGA 1986 and DOE Circular 20/88 this unlawful publicity being sanctioned by the DCLG.
Tenants Against The Cuts,