Eric Pickles blasts council free-sheets as “knock off imitation”

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Wakefield Council has defended its free newspaper following comments made by the communities secretary Eric Pickles.

Mr Pickles is seeking to introduce a new law to stop councils publishing regular free-sheets, saying they are a waste of money and pose a threat to local newspapers.

Mr Pickles said: “The spread of the town hall free sheet is manifestly unfair because they offer cut price local news, but mixed in with council propaganda that pours taxpayers money down the drain.

“These free-sheets are often confused for the residents. I want our news to be told and sold under the masthead of an independent and free press, not through a knock-off Rolex imitation.”

Mr Pickles has said he wants to target a “bunch of hardcore” councils which continue to regularly publish free-sheets despite government guidance that they should only come out every three months.

Wakefield Council’s The Citizen comes out three times a year and has a circulation of 152,000.

It costs £67,000 a year to produce, or around 15p per household, and carries no commercial advertising, Wakefield Council said.

Council leader Peter Box said: “The government really does need to stop telling us how to do communicate with our own citizens, particularly when in the same breath they talk about “localism”.

“Research tells us people enjoy the Citizen and find it useful. It comes out three times a year, in no way threatens local daily or weekly newspapers and, at 15p per household per issue, it represents good value for money.”