Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Council 'newspaper' defies government and two court decisions

The council has been fighting the government about its print schedule for years

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Council-owned newsletter Waltham Forest News
By Victoria Munro 30 November 2021

A “newspaper” written by Waltham Forest Council defied the government and two court decisions in order to publish eight times this year.

In 2018, the government ordered the council to stop publishing Waltham Forest News every two weeks, as council newsletters are meant to be printed no more than four times every year.

The council’s attempts in 2019 to overturn this decision in the High Court and then at the Court of Appeal were both unsuccessful.

However, since then, it has continued to flout the guideline, printing five times in 2020 and seven - soon to be eight times - this year.

A Waltham Forest Council spokesperson insisted this was due to “an unparalleled need to communicate urgently with everyone in Waltham Forest”.

They added: “Our communications have been at the forefront of keeping residents up-to-date, covering everything from the latest lockdown rules, how to get tested and vaccinated, as well as how to access council services and essential financial support.

“Delivering Waltham Forest News through everyone’s door has meant we can reach every resident, especially those shielding, as well the 12% of residents that do not have access to digital services.”

Previously a spokesperson told the Echo that publishing every two weeks allows it to print public notices, which can only appear in fortnightly papers, without having to pay for “expensive advertising in the commercial press”.

A report prepared for this week’s cabinet meeting shows the council will “reduce the number of issues from fortnightly down to quarterly” in future, which it noted will have a “significant impact” on the revenue it can make.

The rule that council newsletters should print no more than quarterly was created to protect the freedom of local media from the “unfair competition” of taxpayer-funded publications, which can afford to undercut their advertising rates.

The council spokesperson added that a survey of 2,000 residents earlier this year saw two thirds say they read Waltham Forest News.