In the last days of this Government with Purdah kicking in shortly, Eric Pickles decides to strike another blow against democracy by trying to prevent the Royal Borough from publishing Greenwich Time.
This was subsequently followed by him deciding to go the whole hog and include a number of neighbouring Boroughs. They are now considering their legal options. The cabinet met last week and decided to seek a judicial review. This decision was not taken lightly but based on the legal advise given in advance.
This matter has been rumbling for years following the lobby by the Press Barons to Government about doing something to stop publications by local authorities. They are, of course, more concerned about profit margins than trying to increase their circulation across London. In fact there is poor circulation both by the Mercury and News Shopper in Greenwich but they have both taken steps to improve the quality of the stories published both on line and in the the columns of their papers.
Of course Eric is on a mission to help the local Conservative Candidates in the General Election whose behaviour about this matter has been grossly unfair. They fail to confirm their involvement in the decision. How many times have they met the Secretary of State and how many EMail exchanges have taken place between them. When were they aware that he was taking action on this matter?.
Twitter accounts have been overheating in recent days. Those who hate Greenwich Time, still hate it even more. Those who value and appreciate the fact that they get a weekly paper reflecting community life in the Borough still love it.
As the Leader of the Council stated in the press release this is an issue about local democracy: Should the council roll over and allow the Secretary of State to ride roughshod over a a local authority whose members were elected some nine months ago. If this decision was accepted, what other powers would he try to exercise. In the end the courts will decide and rightly so.
The direction by the Secretary of State includes a provision that we must advertise in the local press regardless of cost, the result being that Council taxpayers would have to pay an additional £2 a year. This is in a period of austerity with Government imposing further cuts in budget in the next two years. Ironically the Chancellor announced measures to assist the press. Nothing to do with their donor status to the Conservative Party or the headlines they get all too frequently.