Controversial plans by Tory chiefs to publish three editions of a council newspaper at taxpayers’ expense in the build-up to elections next May could be torn up at a committee meeting tomorrow.
A cabinet decision to deliver copies of “Forward” to all 49,000 homes in South Ribble in October, December and March has been called in for further examination by the authority’s scrutiny committee after complaints by opposition councillors.
Labour leader Coun Paul Foster (above) was one of five councillors who, suspecting political bias prior to the election, protested saying the decision was contrary to Government guidelines and also ignored the recommendations of a cross-party working group on how the council should communicate with its residents and businesses.
“The cabinet has completely disregarded what the working group decided - they didn’t even consult with it,” he said. “And they didn’t consult with a cross-party editorial group which is there to ensure Forward is politically impartial and neutral.
“Considering the council hasn’t published one edition in the past 18 months and is now planning three in five or six months ahead of next year’s election at great cost is disgraceful.”
Leader of the council, Coun Mary Green, denied there was any political motive.
She said: “The four copies of the Forward publication have been produced for many years under different administrations. The printing of the publication was paused to allow a review to take place on communication with residents.
“We will be consulting with them on their preferred method of communication from the council, be it digitally or printed format, but in the meantime there have been numerous calls from residents and local community groups who have requested regular written communication from the council.
“We have listened to their views and are responding to their request, therefore producing the Autumn edition of Forward. This is a non party political publication which is produced by the council.
“Government guidelines are that councils produce four publications per year. Although there are councils that produce publications on a much more regular basis.
“Having said that, South Ribble Borough Council will be complying with the Government guidelines in this civic year and will be publishing three publications.
“We feel it is important to communicate with our residents and inform them of important events and essential information.